Premiering his first two films at the Tribeca Film Festival, writer/director Colin Minihan is in Austin promoting his latest outing, the tense horror thriller What Keeps You Alive. A two-hander of sorts starring Hannah Emily Anderson and Brittany Allen, the film centers on a woman (Allen) who learns the hard way that her wife (Anderson) is a psychopathic murderer, while at a cabin in the woods for the couple’s first year anniversary.
“A few things inspired it. The very first thing, if I’m going to be honest, is that Brit and I are a couple, and when we get into little couple’s disagreements, we would sometimes be like, ‘I just want to kill you right now,’” Minihan admitted, sitting down at Deadline’s SXSW Studio with his stars. “We started tossing around the idea of a husband and wife that were trying to poison one another and backstab each other, and that eventually shifted when I started reading about husbands who had killed their wives, but [had] actually done it multiple times, and gotten busted by the third time.”
Finding particular inspiration in a story of a husband who pushed his wife off a cliff, Minihan did initially cast a man as the film’s villain before that actor dropped out, leading him to reconsider his casting, and go with a psychotic female protagonist in a same-sex relationship instead.
“I started going back to an idea that I had while writing it, that it would be really exciting to actually have this character be female, and write an iconic psychopath female character,” the director said. “It was a blessing in disguise, but that’s how it ultimately came together.”
While Allen would have had a part in the film regardless of this role reversal—given her long-standing collaborative relationship with Minihan—she feels that choosing to go with a female villain changed the film for the better, in more ways than one. “It just felt more relevant to today,” the actress said. “It felt fresher—it felt like a new take on the genre, and on this story.”
To hear more from Minihan and his cast about the making of What Keeps You Alive, click above.
The Deadline Studio at SXSW 2018 is presented by MoviePass.