Oculus hit shelves Tuesday and watching it again, I have to say that it is still excellent. An adult horror for adults, the film heads into areas that may make some uncomfortable but hey, that is what horror is all about. Shock recently caught up with Mike Flanagan, the man behind the mirror, to talk about Oculus, “found footage,” needless worries, and his adaption of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game.
Shock Till You Drop: Oculus was a very different film. It’s as much a family drama as it is a horror film. What was your initial take on the material?
Mike Flanagan: It started as a short in 2005 but it took seven years to get it up on its feet as a feature which was always my hope. Both with this movie and with this tiny little film I did before called Absentia, it was more important to try and tell a complex dramatic story than just a by the book horror movie. I think it is different and was supposed to be different and I think both movies ended up being polarized because of it.
Shock: Because of the structure and the time you first made the short, was there ever a thought to make it “found footage”?
Flanagan: We had a number of interested studios and financiers that offered to take on Oculus back in 2006 if we could do it as a “found footage” movie. We would pull it away from people who wanted to put it into that Paranormal Activity mold. We always wanted this to be something unique.
Shock: Since the film deals with children in an abusive house, were there any scenes that were uncomfortable to film?
Flanagan: I was really worried there would be and I think we over prepared, expecting it to be traumatic for the kids. As it turned out, the kids were game. We weren’t prepared for how much fun they were having. We would be chased and strangled, and dragged across the carpet …that was their favorite part of production. For Katee Sackhoff, who had to do some really physical stuff Annalise, she originally came at it very trepidatiously. We came up with safe words and we came off looking really bizarre to her I think. She was really just excited to do all that stuff. So we were way more concerned about it than what was ultimately necessary.
Shock: The mirror has such a rich history, where would you like to take it if given the opportunity?
Flanagan: We had written nine short films about it and we have a whole history for it. So there is a ton of material that exists if we wanted to do a sequel. But we made it a rule up to the theatrical release, not to discuss sequels amongst ourselves because we don’t know how this is gonna go. There absolutely is interest in a sequel from the studio. They would absolutely do another one. For me, it’s about under what conditions that would be done.
I would love to get into another non linear time structure and explore a couple of more stories about it simultaneously. But I wouldn’t want to work on it if it was something to crank out and cynically create a franchise. It would just have to be the right story.
Shock: What is it you’re working on now and what can you tell me about it?
Flanagan: I am adapting a Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game. It’s a strange book and one of my all-time favorites because I’m a Stephen King fanatic. I’ve been trying to get the rights to this book for 10 years. Then King saw Oculus and loved it. Suddenly, out of the blue, we had a conversation. We wrote the script earlier this year and he loved it so we’re moving forward on that. That, for me, is such a cool movie. It’s incredibly scary, incredibly intimate, contained and character driven in a way that I think eclipses both Oculus and Absentia.
Shock: King’s work is notorious for being difficult to bring to the screen. Have you thought about how you are going to avoid that pitfall?
Flanagan: I am such a King loyalist that I’m the guy that goes opening weekend to every King adaptation and gets all excited, then shakes his fist throughout.
The beauty of it is that the King fans really want to see his work brought to the screen in an effective way and I believe I know how to meet their expectations cause I’m one of them. I look at what Darabont does when he adapts King, Cronenberg’s Dead Zone, the people who’ve done it well. I don’t think anyone is going to be more hypercritical about adapting King’s work, than I am. It will be a strange and cool movie and I think it’s gonna mess people up!