The giant tribbles in the new indie sci-fi comedy Save Yourselves! — which focuses on tech-hooked couple Su and Jack dealing with the aftermath of a furry alien invasion — are not tribbles. Yes, the huge pouffes might, at a glance, resemble the famous over-sized pests from Star Trek, but the stars of the movie — Sunita Mani and John Paul Reynolds — want to make it clear that these furry alien invaders have little in common with other furry aliens, other than the fact that they're furry.
"It’s hard to escape the Star Trek universe and it was hard to escape the Critters comparisons," Reynolds tells SYFY WIRE. "But with tribbles, the problem is that they just multiply so much and eat the resources. The way our pouffes behave is vastly different. I’ve seen a lot of Star Trek because my girlfriend is a Star Trek fan, but I don’t think I can call myself a fan because I think the real Star Trek fans would eat me alive."
Being literally eaten alive by the furry alien pouffes is part of the conflict for Reynolds and Mani's characters — Jack and Su — but the bigger theme of the movie, at least at first, isn't about dodging aliens at all. It's about two slightly bored millennials trying to figure out how to care about something that isn't on the screen of their phone. Directed and written by Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson, Save Yourselves! is what happens when a Black Mirror-esque allegory about phone addiction meets a quirky sci-fi/horror/comedy about an alien invasion. But, unlike a kitschy sci-fi horror flick in the vein of Tremors, what sets Save Yourselves! apart is the fact that it spends nearly half the movie being a rom-com about two people trying to reconnect. Way before the furry menace of the pouffes becomes apparent, the real story is about Jack and Su trying to figure out who they are to each other when they're not constantly connected to the internet.
"It sort of plays with the idea of saving yourself — yes, from something attacking you — but can you save yourself from your own stupid habits and patterns," Mani says. "For my character, Su, it’s about letting go of all that, and that control, so she can make something happen. Or maybe to go with it. I think it's open-ended. I think thematically we are trying to find ourselves and find each other."
While staying in a cabin in the woods, and away from technology or communication, Su and Jack end up dealing with the aftermath of a furry alien invasion, in which the pouffes do horrific things to people that, yeah, you can't imagine a tribble doing, ever. Mani and Reynolds say that having furry creatures as practical objects on the set was super helpful in conveying the realism, but that it was important to strike a tone that wasn't too silly because gruesome things were coming later in the film.
"I feel like when the pouffes were on set, it locked in place for me," Mani says. "That's when it really takes off. When the invasion has caught up to them and they become aware of it, it was like, OK, let’s go and this is the tone. I was thrilled to have them on set to play off of."
Reynolds agrees, adding, "Thank God we took it seriously. Because, practically speaking, we saw the pouffes on set, but the horrific murder and the blowing of the brains out, we didn’t see until we saw the movie. I mean, it’s cliche to say, but humor and drama work hand-in-hand. And the more serious we take these pouffes, the funnier it will be. And, later, scarier. It works both ways."
Without spoiling the specific ending of the movie (because seriously, it's a great ending) there is a strange possibility that Save Yourselves! could have set itself up for a very different kind of sequel. And, if a sequel did happen, Mani and Reynolds say that they are ready, but that they also know a movie like that would be very different than the movie they just made.
"It’s really about Jack and Su and a relationship story," Mani said. "The creature aspect of it was all in-tune with our comedic sensibilities, but it’s also a fun action movie. So, I think that [a sequel] would be a different movie altogether in tone."
"Yeah, I mean, there could be a sequel," Reynolds says. "That’s for sure. The ending is open for interpretation. I like movies that end that way with a conversation in the car."
Speaking of riding in a car, Reynolds and Mani have both seen Save Yourselves! at a drive-in movie theater, and they both recommend it as a perfect way to watch the film. That said, Save Yourselves! is playing in a limited theatrical run right now, and available to watch on-demand. It's a heartwarming movie that is as much for sci-fi fans as it is for people trying to reconnect with their loved ones.
Or as Mani puts it, "It's a movie about letting go of expectations and getting off your phone."