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 werent 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 dont know how this is gonna go. There absolutely is interest in a sequel from the studio. They would absolutely do another one. For me, its 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 wouldnt 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 youre working on now and what can you tell me about it?
Flanagan: I am adapting a Stephen King novel, Geralds Game. Its a strange book and one of my all-time favorites because Im a Stephen King fanatic. Ive 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 were moving forward on that. That, for me, is such a cool movie. Its incredibly scary, incredibly intimate, contained and character driven in a way that I think eclipses both Oculus and Absentia.
Shock: Kings 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 Im 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 Im one of them. I look at what Darabont does when he adapts King, Cronenbergs Dead Zone, the people whove done it well. I dont think anyone is going to be more hypercritical about adapting Kings work, than I am. It will be a strange and cool movie and I think its gonna mess people up!