After you've seen enough horror films, you get to the point where you can start guessing exactly what's going to happen fairly easily, mapping out jump scares long before a violently loud burst of strings attempts to shock you out of your seat. But Richard Shepard's The Perfection is an anomaly of modern day horror, filled with B-movie thrills and chills as well as elevated acting and deeply unexpected twists.
It's bizarre and batsh*t crazy, while also being wildly entertaining, depending on your stamina for gore. But at it's core, once you rinse off all the blood and bugs, is a striking story about two women bonded by their scars — both physical and emotional — and how they're able to begin the healing process only after they've gone through hell and back together.
The two characters in question are played by Allison Williams (Get Out) and Logan Browning (Dear White People). The latter appears as talented cellist Lizzy, the rare classical musician who has mainstream fame and fortune, which initially seems like the reason why Charlotte (Williams), a troubled musical prodigy and former student of Lizzy's music conservatory, seeks her out. After they meet, the encounter sends both musicians down a deeply twisted path that has gruesome consequences.
Ahead of the film's May 24 release on Netflix, we hopped on the phone with Browning to discuss everything from learning to play cello, to visiting Shanghai for the first time, to why watching The Perfection is a cathartic experience in the midst of America's political turmoil.
POPSUGAR: So first I'd really love to know what motivated you to sign onto this film, since – and I mean this in the most positive way – it's the most insane movie I've seen in recent memory.
Logan Browning: Great! [Laughs]
PS: Yeah, my head is still spinning. Is that part of why you liked the script so much?
LB: Well, firstly, when I read the script, I went in blind. It was such a page-turner. Usually when I get a script, I'll like it, but I'll tend to put it down because they're not always captivating, but this one was. When I got to, I don't know, I'd say about 15 to 20 pages in when it gets to a point when my character . . . well, without spoiling anything, something happens to my character, and I saw no recovering from that [for her]. I had no idea how this film was going to be able to keep going, and then it did. It constantly twisted and turned. It wasn't just that the film was so mind-blowingly confusing, and fun – it was also that the film was following two strong female characters on really well-developed character journeys. I knew that Allison was attached, which was amazing . . . I just feel really grateful to be a part of it.
PS: Given all the twists and turns that the script takes, what would you say the biggest challenge was for you going into the movie as an actor?
LB: Hmm . . . maybe how quickly we had to learn the cello, because I was impressed with myself. [Laughs] I'd never touched that instrument in my life, and I was basically learning at the rate of a four year old. Within less than two months I was able to do all the correct hand motions for the pieces. There was this incredibly intricate and complicated piece that we were having to play. That was definitely one of the surprising challenges.
PS: So that was actually you and Allison playing the cello in the film?
LB: Oh yeah! Yeah, it was totally us. We both did have doubles, and the doubles did work, but [director Richard Shephard] wanted there to be a lot of us, with our faces, seeing us being able to play. There was no situation where they were swapping our heads out and putting them on different bodies with CGI. There definitely were some double's hands, and they were so fantastic, but it was mostly us. Richard really wanted us to learn the pieces so that we really knew what we were doing and that we sounded amazing.
PS: You guys really did look like you were born and bred cello players. It was wild.
PS: For me, it was a really cathartic experience watching this movie, since it deals so profoundly with female rage, as well as what women have to endure at the hand's of men. Given everything that's going on in our country right now surrounding women's rights especially, was filming this an outlet for you to work out some of your own anger or frustrations in any way?
LB: For me the film ended up being very cathartic, yeah. When I got to perform the revenge scene, I had no idea I would actually feel that way. You prepare for things like that and you do the work, but then showing up and really getting to go through it, and acting out revenge, is very satisfying. And not in a violent way. I kind of felt like a superhero.
PS: So the movie moves around quite a bit, going from Shanghai to Boston to a few other places. What was shooting for the film like?
LB: Well during the scene when [Allison's character confronts mine], we were actually filming in Vancouver to look like Shanghai, so it was cold. [Laughs] But when we did end up going to film in Shanghai, that was really cool. I'd never been to China, so I just felt really grateful to get to go because of that. It's a beautiful place. Shanghai has so much beautiful architecture and culture, and that was very cool to shoot.
"I kind of felt like a superhero."
Filming in the concert hall was really a treat, because we got to watch the young cellists actually perform. The three of them were hired because they were actually fantastic young prodigies. Basically it was like we were at a real concert. [It was great] getting to see young girls perform who are real, true cellists. For me, for research and inspiration, it was grounding seeing something that was so authentic.
PS: Did you ask the girls who played for tips at all?
LB: Right! We were kind of asking them. [Laughs] We were telling them that we still had to put tape on our cellos on the necks, so we were like, "Yeah we haven't graduated to where you guys are yet." They were all so, so sweet, and really talented.
PS: You and Allison share a bunch of intense scenes throughout The Perfection. What was it like to film those? Was it a bonding experience?
LB: Allison is so lovely. I was immediately drawn to her when I met her. I've been a fan of hers. I've always thought she was talented, and once I got to know her I found out how smart and kind and caring she is. She cares about people. We got along really well because we have a similar work ethic. In the way that Charlotte and Lizzy both went through the Academy and understood what it's like to devote your life to something, Allison and I both really connected on being excited to be at work, and to make work a highly enjoyable experience for everyone. She was really supportive! Those scenes were honestly a blast, because even though they were really intense onscreen, as soon as we cut, her and I were laughing, telling jokes, just having the best time.
The Perfection is now streaming on Netflix.