Tell us about the characters you play and what's going on with them in Shark Night?
Sara Paxton: I play Sara, and she's the girl next door, the nice girl—until the movie gets crazy, and then she sort of has a secret past which is unfolding like the layers of an onion.
Dustin Milligan: I play Nick, who is a shy, introverted, very studious pre-med student who's going to the same university-or college, I guess you say in the States. I'm Canadian. We go out to Sara's lake house, which is—important fact—surrounded by a salt-water lake.
SP: Thus sharks.
DM: But I have a huge crush on her character, so that's my incentive to go. And as the shark attacks ensue, my character is forced to come out of his shell and use his pre-med knowledge to do his best to save the day. Or the night, rather. Shark Night 3D.
Sara, you've been in an amazing gamut of horror movies over the last few years, including The Innkeepers-
DM: Have you seen it? I can't wait to see this.
I saw it at SXSW, but didn't see it a second time at LAFF because I was concerned it would freak me out again.
DM: Is it legitimately that scary?
SP: The end takes you for a loop. Because you're not suspecting it. You're like, "Ha ha—ooooh!"
DM: I've seen the poster at her house, and I was like, "It reminds me of Goonies," and that was enough for me to want to see it.
But from that to Last House on the Left, what were you expecting for Shark Night? Because this could be campier, at least after Piranha 3D.
SP: I don't really know. I didn't see Piranha 3D, so I didn't have anything to compare this to. But I know that from me doing Last House on the Left, which I loved doing, it gave me the opportunity to do this movie because David Ellis [director of Shark Knight] was a big fan of that movie. He contacted me and sent me the script and asked me if I wanted to play this character. He said, "Hey, do you want to shoot in Louisiana on an amazing lake with a bunch of cool people for two months?" And I thought, yes! That sounds amazing. I didn't really think about the water-themed campy aspect.
DM: In terms of the comparison to Piranha 3D, I think we actually do stand apart from that in terms of there are comedic elements, but it's not over the top and making fun of the genre. We take these things seriously, and you will be scared, seriously. You're not going to be laughing at the gore and laughing at the silliness of these little critters. These are real killers in the water, the filming of which was terrifying for us, and we're confident that in 3D or any D you want to see it, those terrifying moments will come across on screen.
Some 3D is meant to be immersive and unobtrusive, other 3D is meant to be dynamic and connect with the audience. What about this?
DM: There's no pool cue or, "Here's your pen." [Reaches towards me.] I mean, there's elements with some of the larger action sequences where every now and again something will whiz past.
SP: I don't think it's meant to distract you, I think it's just something that kind of enhances the movie.
DM: And I think that's what filmmakers, especially David having worked with 3D before [on The Final Destination], what he did that was smart about this. He actually used it to enhance the film without actually making it about the 3D. It's about the sharks, and that's what you'll see.
The movie is PG-13 and that's worrying some horror fans about its intensity, and its gore.
SP: Do you really need gore for it to be that scary? I mean, look at Jaws—Steven Spielberg managed to scare people without showing anything.
I've never heard of that movie.
SP: Doesn't ring a bell? Spielberg? Don't know the name? [Laughs] He managed to scare all of these people without even showing the shark during the first and second act of the movie. I mean, we definitely have a lot more than Jaws; you're definitely going to see the shark, and there's definitely blood and gore, but it's PG-13, so that more people can see it.
DM: You will see chunks of flesh, but it won't be gratuitous.
SP: It's not like arms are chopped off.
DM: I think that's again a good move, because yes, some hardcore horror fanatics will want to see all of the blood and gore they can get. But this is not necessarily a horror movie. It's a thriller-this is an action movie, so we want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy this. I mean, think about how many people are terrified of sharks. It's obviously not universal, but we all kind of do, we don't really know what's under water, even in a fresh-water lake. I'm terrified of a sea monster. I'm 25 years old and I'm still scared of that.
I'm 35 and I'm scared of them, too. Since audiences are familiar with the conventions that made Jaws so effective, how did you give this its own identity and intensity?
SP: I definitely think the use of the mechanical sharks. We enlisted the help of the most amazing effects team. The sharks were life-sized, had real shark's teeth, and could swim at you at 40 miles an hour and then thrash their jaws at you. People were actually getting bit on set, because you can't always control a giant thing like that, that flies as you that fast. People were bleeding all of the time—
DM: It's almost like it was a horror show off-camera just as well as on-camera. But I think in terms of building the tension, we take advantage of that, but we deliver what audiences want to see in that you get to see these sharks. And the one spoiler that I will give is that there's a variety of sharks in this water, so we're going to show you all of these different things—how they kill differently from one another. And there's kills that I think you haven't seen in shark movies, which is important, in that our film actually takes the genre and combines the tension-building of Jaws with some of the more flashy thrasher aspects of the fun summer movie that you want to see. It's something new in regards to the actual shark attacks.