Significant Other Filmmakers Explore Venturing Into the Unknown for New Thriller

In the new film Significant Other, a young couple embarks on a seemingly innocuous hike, but thanks to writers/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, this excursion quickly goes from tense to stressful to completely horrifying. The trajectory of the film ends up mirroring the experience of embarking on an unpredictable journey, as each time the viewer rounds a corner, we're treated to a frightening new discovery. Helping immerse the audience and characters in the spirit of the unknown is the lush forest in which the film takes place, as the trees of the Pacific Northwest give an otherworldly vibe to the experience. Significant Other premieres on Paramount+ on October 7th.

"We had a very specific idea of what we wanted the woods to feel like. Although the movie takes place in this very, very vast outdoors, it's still a single location in many ways," Berk recalled to about the film's setting. "And so, you have the same challenge you do with a limited location movie of location fatigue, of the audience getting bored of looking at four white walls, or in this case, a bunch of trees. And so we knew we needed gorgeous, old-growth forest that also had enough space in between trees to actually be able to mount a production effectively, and also variety within that, so we could actually express to the viewer different locations within an hour radius of Portland. And then, obviously, the coast being that incredibly dramatic topography and look. So yeah, it was certainly going to be somewhere along the Pacific ... It was either going to be Oregon or Washington or Vancouver, but Portland was our number one choice, and that's where we landed."

Olsen added, "We're from the East Coast, and the woods there suck. You go to the woods around Portland, and you're like, 'This is Star Wars.' Some of the shots, we worried people thought were going to be built sets because of just how perfect the moss is on the trees and stuff like that, and you have the inherent suspense of the subduction zone just off the coast, so there could be a giant tsunami at any moment."

Significant Other follows a young couple (Maika Monroe & Jake Lacy) who take a remote backpacking trip through the Pacific Northwest, but things take a dark turn when they realize they may not be alone.

While there are entertaining elements that are straight-up horror, the film also delivers genuine laughs and an almost campiness to certain sequences to keep audiences on their toes.

"Our goal was never and is never, with any of our films, to stay on the straight and narrow with a particular genre. It's just in our nature to always have a little bit of levity and obviously twists and turns and letting the story dictate tone in some ways," Berk detailed of navigating those themes. "And this is the hard part, but the antagonistic force in this movie obviously has goals that are different than other movies, perhaps. Sometimes the goal of the antagonistic force is something simple, like kill the protagonist or something. Ours is very different. And so, when you actually start looking under the hood, the tone has to follow that. It becomes a very bizarre dynamic between protagonists and antagonists, somewhere in the back half of the movie. You almost need to poke fun at the absurdity of that, or at least allow yourself to have the ... Allow the tone to express to the viewer, it's okay to feel like, 'Holy sh-t. I don't even know what I would think if I were in her shoes.' In that way, we knew that we were going to be weaving through different tonal cues once all the cards were on the table."

Much like the film balances various tones, it also explores more about the human condition and our desire to connect with others, which was an intrinsic theme to the development process.

"I think that was intended from the start. I think one of the things that we really wanted to explore was how Ruth in not wanting to necessarily get married right now, is expressing a worldview that is not accepted sometimes; where it is a forgone conclusion that, at least in our society, that you're going to get married," Olsen expressed. "You're like, 'You're about to turn ... All right, you're going to get married soon, right?' and just how hard it is to escape those pre-prescribed, societal notions. There's no way to get away from it."

Berk echoed, "But it was nice, though, because seeing that was this meta confirmation that it was actually a story worth exploring. This woman in this movie, there should be enough oxygen in the room for her worldview to exist. But we could tell the world didn't necessarily want that. So yeah, that was the goal, that layer was there from the beginning. And that was actually, it was very foundational. That's what we built upon."

Having multiple smaller projects under their belts, the pair revealed the more well-known properties they would like to dive into.

"There's a couple different ... There was a Friday the 13th -- or I'm sorry, Nightmare on Elm Street thing that we were batting around for a while," Olsen confirmed. 

Berk added, "I think straight horror is usually not necessarily our goal. Like you said, it's usually something adjacent to that. We have an absolutely killer Eyes of the Dragon adaptation and that Stephen King book. So, tweet at Stephen King if you want that to happen."

The filmmaker also pointed out, "And then this is maybe a little more relevant because we actually know that the book rights are being bidded on right now, but NeverEnding Story would be really fun to be able to reboot. That feels like something that would be right up our alley."


Significant Other premieres on Paramount+ on October 7th.

Are you looking forward to the new movie? Let us know in the comments or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!