From the trailer and the poster for Significant Other, you’re probably getting hints of a thriller – possibly monster tale – set in a gloomy forest. And you’d be right on both counts. But there’s a little bit more to the Paramount Plus original movie than that. In fact, there’s a significant other element to it that will make it of interest to readers of a certain sci-fi magazine on this very website. It’s something of an overlooked gem in a crowded sea of streaming genre productions and definitely worth adding to your watch list for Halloween and beyond.
But warning: if you don’t want spoilers, or to have potential twists given away, then begone! Here are the creators, speaking exclusively to SFX at New York Comic Con about what’s really lurking in the woods for an unsuspecting couple.
Directors and writers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (Villains, Body) don’t want to pigeonhole their latest movie. "But if you had a gun to our head…" jokes Olsen, "we think of it as a romantic drama wrapped in a sci-fi thriller with a little bit of horror and comedy sprinkled on top." So far, so many genres. But they’re being serious and actually – surprisingly – it works.
Significant Other sees couple Ruth (Maika Monroe) and Harry (Jake Lacy) take a camping trip – they’ve been together for six years and Harry wants to take the relationship to the next level. Ruth isn’t quite as excited at the prospect. But something comes between them and the trip takes a very different turn indeed.
"We hadn’t yet really dipped our toe into sci-fi," Olsen explains when asked what made them pick this genre. "We've done a lot of horror and thrillers. It kind of came from wanting to create an antagonistic monster, if you will, that is kind of about our theme, two different people have two different ideas of what love should be, how humans experience love. In order to examine that properly, you wanted to find a creature who could be experiencing the human phenomenon for the first time. So that instantly led us to aliens…"
We did warn you there’d be spoilers… Yes, they went down to the woods today and were sure of a big surprise – an alien life form encounters the troubled couple but, as She-Hulk’s Madisynn King might say, “it’s not what you thi-ink”.
The movie, the partners say, was partly born of practicality and necessity as, during Covid, they weren’t sure if they’d ever get on a movie set again. Filming a production outside quickly turned the story to a camping trip and whittling down the options for an antagonist brought them to an entirely new species.
"So yes, this is a monster movie in some ways," Olsen says, "but I certainly wouldn't want someone who's looking for Kaiju and stuff to watch our movie and be like, ‘Where’s the fucking monster?’
"We tried to make it so that it's clear that this movie is not about that alien race and what they're doing here," he explains. "It's not an examination of them. This one particular alien we're dealing with is off script, if you will, he's doing something that all the other aliens aren't."
That’s not to say there’s not more to explore in the future as – another spoiler incoming – the ending doesn’t so much hint at further visitors as crashes them into the narrative. "We did talk a lot about the lore and mythology that powers these aliens, [but] we just decided not to necessarily put it in the movie because we wanted it to be very theme forward," Olsen offers. "Villains was an exploration of the nature of love and the duality of it and how you can go from warm to toxic very quickly – we've always enjoyed exploring those things."
"There were so many other facets to building an alien race that were just new to us," Berk considers. "Working with our production designer Priscilla Elliott on the way the craft look, color palette, how exactly the cocoons are going to look, that was all new and exciting."
While the directors may be keeping tight-lipped about any kind of sequel, the stars of the film think there’s potentially more to explore in future. "I think perhaps at the end, I think there's a future for her, yeah," Maika Monroe (It Follows) teases. "One of my favorite things in the movie is a really, really good twist. When I was sent the script and read it, I literally had no idea where it was going. And there's something quite fun in that. So I don't know, we'll see."
Her co-star Jake Lacy (The White Lotus) agrees. "It could, there's room for that, I think. It's not apocalyptic where we all die at the end. There’s room. Some humans on Earth are alive at the end of this movie. I don't want to give anything away!"
For now, though, sci-fi fans should make time for a trip to the woods – if they dare…
Significant Other is on Paramount Plus now. For more sci-fi viewing options, check out our list of the best sci-fi movies of all time.