Sunita Mani and John Reynolds Battled the Apocalypse in ‘Save Yourselves!’ and Lived to Tell About It
During a time when the internet is one of the few connections to the outside world for many people, the idea of unplugging may sound insane. However, pre-pandemic, it was a tempting prospect for some people. One brave millennial couple, Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), make a pact to set aside their phones for a week in order to reconnect with each other, escaping Brooklyn for a cabin in the woods in sci-fi comedy “Save Yourselves!” But what the pair didn’t count on was an alien invasion disrupting what was to be a tranquil getaway.
Both Man and Reynolds recently chatted with Entertainment Voice via Zoom. “Absolutely,” replied Mani when asked if she related to her character. “More and more everyday, every minute.” She pointed out that while the script felt timely to her, she also felt that the lack of technology in the film gives it a timeless feel.
Su is the first to break the pact after a couple of days, and although she receives some alarming voicemails from her mother, she keeps quiet to her partner until she can’t any longer. In a hilarious twist, Jack is more upset about Su having broken the back than he is about the news of fluffy but deadly, rodent-like creatures who have invaded Earth. It’s not long before these pouffes reach the cabin, and, like most millennials and Brooklynites, neither one has much to offer in the way of survival skills. Jack is especially bummed about not having the ability to do “manly” things like chop wood or drive a manual vehicle like the one left behind by their outdoorsy pal who lent them the cabin (Ben Sinclair).
“There are definitely certain character traits of Jack that I can relate to,” revealed Reynolds. “I have bouts of anxiety. I’m always trying to figure out how I am shaped by these outdated masculine ideals in our culture. But, definitely in the last seven months, I can relate to them, situationally, because, obviously, it feels like the apocalypse is outside sometimes. Naturally, having been shut in our apartments, especially in Brooklyn, you feel so isolated sometimes.”
While neither Reynolds nor Mani has tremendous confidence that he or she could survive an alien takeover in real life, Reynolds knows one thing. “I’m definitely more prepared to handle the news of an alien invasion. I don’t know what these aliens would be like, but if someone said they were here on Earth, I would be like, ‘That makes sense. It’s about time.’”
Nothing puts a relationship to the test like facing a possible apocalypse, and it should come as no surprise that this film, which is about communication as much as it is about survival, was written and directed by a married couple, Alex H. Fischer and Eleanor Wilson. It was Wilson who designed the pouffes, the deceptively adorable creatures who threaten humankind. The filmmakers and actors had a lot of fun as Su and Jack are put through the ringer trying to outsmart these invaders, who have a thirst for alcohol and gasoline. All of the scenes with the pouffes were shot practically with VFX enhancements added later on in post.
“It was really fun,” recalled Mani when asked about her scenes with the pouffes. “It was a joy to work with them. They were necessary, a bit, to play off of. Sure, we would have done a good job if it were only CGI and we were reacting to a tennis ball, but it was a very pampered, cared for object on set that was taken really seriously and I was happy that we had them on set.”
Things get even crazier after Su and Jack make the decision to hit the road, and while the comedic tone is consistent throughout, the stakes become more life and death at this point. The couple even pick up a baby, Little Jack, after his parents are killed, and adding an infant into the mix of an already chaotic situation leads to even more outlandishness, especially after the couple get high off of some sort of gas released by the pouffes. All of this leads to an out-of-this-world ending, one that is open for interpretation.
When Mani and Reynolds were filming “Save Yourselves!”, they had no way of knowing that the film would be released during a time when many viewers, like Su and Jack, would be living in isolated conditions while danger lurked outdoors. It is the actors’ hope that those watching at home learn from their characters’ journey.
“I hope that they see that Jack and Su went into the woods to better themselves, and in doing so, ended up communicating a ton with each other, and they went from being sort of naive and inept to surviving, at least for the time being,” said Reynolds. “Hopefully, that resents with people being inside with their partners or their roommates or friends, and they’re just having more of a conversation and a dialogue and, I suppose, getting off their phones, because that can be a big, soul-sucking device.”
Has the experience of making the film led Mani or Reynolds to unplug more in their daily lives?
“Quite the opposite,” admitted Mani. “I have lost some scruples. I spend way more time on my phone now than ever. In isolation, it’s a way to get information and share information and stay connected with communities. I’m so much more dependent on it, unfortunately, as we all are, but I do make time to step away. I must. We must.”
Added Reynolds, “All this time indoors, it’s sort of hard not to use technology, especially because our entire industry is [utilizing it]. We’re having this interview on Zoom now, rather than having an in-person junket.”
“Sometimes, I feel it’s irresponsible to not be in touch with that day’s news,” explained Mani. “I wish I could say that I read a lot of books, but I’ve only read a few books during this time.”
Despite the current uncertainty, both Mani and Reynolds look forward to getting back to work on their respective Netflix series. Mani is set to suit up for the fourth and final season of “GLOW” in 2021, continuing the journey of lady wrestler Arthie “Beirut the Mad Bomber” Premkuma, while Reynolds will be reprising his role as Officer Callahan for the fourth season of “Stranger Things” later this year.
“Save Yourselves!” releases Oct. 2 in select cities and Oct. 6 on VOD.