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Wilder Than Her: Yu Jung Hou Explores in the Wild in New Horror Movie

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Oct. 30 2023, Published 3:01 a.m. ET

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Earlier this year, we were given access to a film that’s been making a lot of noise at festivals, a little horror film named Wilder Than Her, which tells the story of three longtime friends, Emilia, Finn, and Lucey, who struggle to cope with the mysterious and sudden death of their friend Bea. They attempt to reconnect and rebuild their relationship through a camping trip, only to find it quickly descends into darkness. We were so happy to find this hidden gem and learn more behind the scenes from editor Yu Jung Hou.

Yu Jung’s work on the movie Wilder Than Her truly showcases her exceptional editing talents. “It was so much fun but also a lot of work. I cannot stress how much I appreciated working with my director, Jess. We didn’t have a lot of time, so every minute in the editing room had to count. But even so, we still had long discussions about things in the movie and outside the movie, which I consider important for any project. Jess is such a fun and calm person that even though we had problems to solve and dates to make, she never made me feel rushed or stressed. Every day was like a game, and I was just there to put together a puzzle. Jess would tell me things she wanted to improve, and we’d come up with the solution we liked most together. Sometimes, it’s my idea, sometimes hers, but for the most part, it was true teamwork. We were inspired by things each other said or the amazing performances our actors gave us, and often, ideas would just emerge. I’ve always been convinced that movies know what they want to be and what’s best for themselves, and our job is to listen and observe and carve out the jewels hidden within. Wilder Than Her was a project that perfectly demonstrated that” she says.

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Yu Jung and Jessica worked harmoniously and efficiently. They were always open and honest with each other and how they felt about the cut while respecting each other’s talent. One thing that Yu Jung loved most was feeling that she really understood what Jessica wanted when presenting a cut that excited her. “Sometimes when I did something right, she would jump up from the couch, pace around, and yell ‘Yes! Yes! Dude! Oh my god. Are we genius or what?’ Her childlike joy made me so happy and made me want to make that happen as often as possible,” she muses.

Yu Jung gave the example of the sequence of the two main characters processing their emotions in a short montage, “which was completely improvised. Jess gave the actors some general directions, and then it was ‘roll camera.’ So that montage felt almost documentary-esque to me because we had to find out a story in there. It wasn’t the hardest moment to figure out in this movie, but it was up there. We tried so many things. We tried cutting it linearly, intercutting it, using different music, using only sound and no music. We definitely spent a good amount of time on that seemingly short sequence. But through a lot of chatting, I got more and more in sync with Jess. One day, we were trying stuff as usual, and we decided we were going to remove some sound but keep the most of it, change the orders of some shots, and finally use a piece of music that was meant for another spot, and magic happened. It just felt right. Jess got excited. And I knew we could finally move on.”

In Wilder Than Her, viewers are taken on a journey to experience the tension, love, and hierarchy in the dynamic of a group of girlfriends, a theme that hasn’t often been explored. The authentic reflection of humanity is exactly where the charm of the movie comes from and what makes the movie scarier than you’d imagine. Yu Jung says, “It was an intricate balance. We knew it wasn’t going to be a traditional horror movie, even though it has been branded as one. Instead, we want it to be genuine and coming from the characters’ points of view. They are all dealing with loss. We wanted to show that mourning could look like a million things, even moments of humor and craziness and moments of intentionally not mourning. But how exactly were we going to create a tone that was ours? It was a constant endeavor. I hope we achieved that. I hope it’s fun, intense, sweet, and sad.”

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One memorable scene from Wilder Than Her exemplifies Yu Jung’s dedication to the project. She was determined to convey a bathroom setting to the audience through sound, as it wasn't immediately obvious on camera. She explored various audio techniques, even suggesting the addition of toilet flushing sounds. “I remember after I suggested that, and I was all serious, there was a pregnant pause, and Jess and our sound design Jackie, in unison, calmly spitted out ‘No.’ And they were cracking up so hard. Hey, a toilet flush might be the key to the Oscars! Honestly, that happens a lot. We’d just make silly suggestions and amuse ourselves, but sometimes they stick, and they’re brilliant. You never know,” she muses.

Wilder Than Her premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival and earned its place in the official lineup at the 2023 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. Yu Jung recalls, “One thing that will forever live in my head is at our premiere, an older white guy sat in front of us and was making a lot of creative noises throughout the movie. At first, we thought he was drunk, but after the movie, he came to the team and would not stop talking about how much he loved the movie. This was our real premiere, and before that, no one but the team and a very small group of close friends and family had seen the movie, so there was really no way to tell if the audience would respond. We were a bit worried that we’d only attract female viewers, yet it spoke to someone we would never in a thousand years imagine would enjoy. That was flattering and reassuring.”

The movie, indeed, speaks to a wide range of audiences. Everyone can find a little bit of themselves in each character. On top of going on this eerie trip with the characters, we are encouraged to question and sympathize with everyone. Although it is a small-budget indie movie, the team on Wilder Than Her successfully created something engaging and beautifully heartbreaking.

In the end, Yu Jung Hou's story is not just about her meteoric rise in the industry but also about her commitment to storytelling and the art of filmmaking, exemplified by her invaluable contributions to Wilder Than Her, The Mandalorian, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and her ever-evolving journey in cinema. She has shown that with dedication, tenacity, and a dash of luck, no dream is too big. Through her work as an editor, she aspires to share the transformative power of movies and inspire others to follow their creative aspirations.

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