Adam Wingard goes mainstream(ish) with ‘You’re Next’

Indie filmmaker Adam Wingard made the crossover horror movie "You're Next." Credit: Getty Images
Indie filmmaker Adam Wingard made the crossover horror movie “You’re Next.”
Credit: Getty Images

For years, director, writer, cinematographer (and occasional actor) Adam Wingard has labored in the world of independent horror. After numerous shorts (including the “V/H/S” series), plus festival favorites like “A Horrible Way to Die,” he made “You’re Next.” Written by Simon Barrett, the film is a home invasion thriller with enough loose indie acting — and a sick sense of humor — to make it stand out. Made in 2011, it’s finally being given a decent release by Lions Gate as the next “it” horror film.

I read that you were shocked when “You’re Next” got a strong audience reception during an early test screening. Were you not trying to make something to crossover?

Going into it, I was actually trying to make something more accessible, something that could be seen in a mainstream light as opposed to the movies we’d done up to this point. Those were all festival-driven. I felt like that was the crowd that understood the kind of things we did. But that world isn’t necessarily why I got into filmmaking. As a kid I watched a lot of crazy, big budget Hollywood movies, horror films and so forth. Those were the kind of things that initially made me want to make movies.

But the film still has a loose style.

I did want to use aspects of what you would normally consider a conventional cinematic language and integrate it into my kind of style. Still, I couldn’t rely on overly shaky handheld camera movements and weird editing styles. Normal audience members, they just want to be involved in the story, and they don’t want style to bog it down. But sometimes I can’t help myself.

There are members of the “mumblecore” scene here, including director Joe Swanberg. How did a more serious, actor-based approach gibe with the horror elements?

The mumblecore thing is about creating reality beyond what you usually see in cinema. You’re not picking actors based on a role. You’re picking roles based on actors. I wanted to bring that aesthetic to it, and that’s what makes it stand out — the fact that you’ve brought a certain kind of reality you’re not used to in these types of films. It’s something people haven’t seen before but it feels familiar at the same time.

Are you reluctant to go from indie horror to more studio work?

I feel like as a filmmaker you have to give the studio thing a shot because at the end of the day every time you make an indie film, you’re taking a gamble. You’re rolling the dice. Will somebody pick up this film? What will happen to it? Independent producers will screw you over just as badly as anyone else.

You’ve worked with filmmaker Joe Swanberg, not only here but on several other projects. You two would seem to have different sensibilities entirely.

I think I kind of opened his eyes to a way of filmmaking that was possibly a little sloppier than he was used to — the kind where you can get it done in a couple days. Working with him has been a mutually enriching experience for both us. I opened his eyes to that kind of film, and he helped me understand what good acting was.


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