While the box office was dominated by sequels including ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’ in the number one spot, an original horror film by the name of ‘Oculus‘ managed to break the top three during it’s opening weekend. Starring sci-fi staples Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff, the latest film from WWE Studios and Blumhouse Productions follows two siblings who set out to prove that an antique mirror possesses supernatural tendencies that drive people crazy to the point of murder by warping reality around them.
If you read my review of the movie, then you know that I rather enjoyed it, so when an opportunity to learn more about it straight from the source, I jumped at the chance. Recently, co-writer and director Mike Flanagan came to Philadelphia to promote the film along with producers Jason Blum and Trevor Macy and they took some time out of their busy schedules to talk to have a fun chat with me about ‘Doctor Who’, WWE, ‘Ghostbusters 3’, and their latest project.
With the Doctor’s former companion in the lead role, my first question had to do with the former Amelia Pond. Before talking about her incredible American accent, I inquired about how Gillan landed the role, but it turns out that she was their top choice all along:
Mike Flanagan, Trevor Macy, & Jason Blum
Mike Flanagan (MF): I’m a giant Whovian. I was thinking about Amy Pond while we were writing because when you have a spitfire, strong heroine it’s kinda hard not to. She was always who I wanted for it and we were lucky enough to get her.
Trevor Macy (TM): We went through a whole casting process. You know, reading people we learned a lot about the character and what we want. Every time we’d have sessions and do lists and every single time we’d ask, “Have we heard from Karen Gillan?” It’s not an exaggeration to say that she was our first choice. She was busy shooting when we started the casting, so by the time she read the script and got on Skype and did a reading, we were all just blown away. And she did it in an American accent with her father, who had a thick Scottish brogue. Despite that, she stayed in the accent the whole time. She’s a very prepared actor so she did some work with a dialect coach, but she didn’t seem to need it.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): Mike, as a big Whovian, was there a specific Amy Pond that you had in mind when conceiving the character?
TM: You showed me the Weeping Angels episode.
MF: I showed him ‘Time of Angels’ and clips from ‘Day of the Moon’, which was a lot of her dealing with the Silence and having to go back and forth between what was real or not. I also showed them ‘The Eleventh Hour’, which was her first episode. But yeah, big fan.
SF: What do you think of the next Doctor?
MF: Oh, Capaldi? Thrilled! I think he’s a phenomenal actor. I can’t wait to see what they do with him.
After nerding out a little bit over the long-running BBC show, we got to talk about the movie and the various intricate back-stories of the former owners of the Lasser Glass:
MF: That was some of the most fun stuff to come up with. That’s like campfire story time. A lot of it came directly from the short film and from what I remember from writing the short, it’s a total playground. You can go anywhere in time and space with this thing and think of really grizzly ways to kill people. There are no restrictions. And because we knew that we weren’t actually ever going in to shoot those stories, that stuff is the most fun. If you’re writing something knowing that it’s going into production, you’re always writing with the understanding of practical realities, but with stuff like this, we weren’t bound by any of that.
SF: Were there any that you wanted to use that didn’t make the cut?
MF: I think we cut two of them all together. It wasn’t that we didn’t like them or they didn’t work. It was just that they weren’t entirely necessary. There are a lot more stories like that that we could tell. I think we ended up with just the right amount.
With “a lot more stories like that we could tell’, one has to wonder about sequels to ‘Oculus’. After all, horror movies these days always seem like they’re setting up a new franchise. That’s why I asked about if the next chapter of this story has crossed these filmmakers’ minds yet:
MF: I think Jason says this really well: Your priority in making movies like this is the movie at hand and if you think too much about if there’s room for a sequel and stuff like that, it could take a lot of steam out of trying to get the work as good as you can in the moment. Because you come into a project like this one thinking that this might be it, this might be the only story that we tell about this mirror, let’s make it as good as possible.
Jason Blum (JB): Isn’t it annoying when you see a movie and then it’s so obvious that these guys are setting up for a sequel? Don’t you find that annoying? I hate it. I just want to see this movie, but you’re trying to get me to see the next one? I find it annoying. I always think that you shouldn’t try to bake a sequel into a movie.
SF: As a writer myself, sometimes I like to go back to my characters, so I was just wondering…
MF: Oh yeah! That’s not to say that we wouldn’t. We would love to make a sequel, but we’d have to feel it. On one hand, the audience would have to be pulling for more and the characters have to be pulling you back.
JB: And the writer/director. I think that it’s really important with sequels that the writer/director at least is back for the writing or else I’m much less excited about it.
SF: That being said, are you less excited about ‘Ghostbusters 3’ [since director Ivan Reitman stepped down and the unfortunate passing of co-writer/star Harold Ramis]?
JB: (laughing) That’s a great question!
MF: I’ll never not be excited about ‘Ghostbusters’!
Finally, before we wrapped things up, I asked about what the trio hoped that their audience would take away from the film. Flanagan shared some reactions from their film festival run that he hopes will be replicated now that the film has received a wider release:
MF: We heard that after it screened at Toronto that there were stories going around that members of the press were going back to their hotel rooms and covering their mirrors. That was awesome because that it would stay with them after they left the theater is the biggest compliment that we could imagine.
Not even going to lie, right after I saw the movie, my overactive imagination was running wild whenever I passed the mirrors in my house. And even while I was interviewing them in their hotel room, a poster was strategically placed so that I could see the creepy reflections in a mirror. So yeah, I think the ‘Oculus’ crew succeeded in evoking the desired emotion from their audience.From where I was sitting, that poster was super creepy.
Overall, my interview with Flanagan, Macy, and Blum was such a good time. It was really easy to chat with these filmmakers since I liked the movie so much. So, if you’re wondering what all the hype is about looking for something fun and scary to check out in theaters this week, look no further than ‘Oculus’.
‘Oculus’ starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, and Katee Sackhoff is in theaters now.