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Nerdist Interviews OCULUS Director Mike Flanagan

Oculus is the latest release from horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions. Co-written and directed by Mike Flanagan, the film stars Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff, Brenton Thwaites and Rory Cochrane and is in theaters now (you can read our review right here). Nerdist had the opportunity to sit down with Flanagan to talk about adapting his successful short film into a feature, the power of mirror itself and how Oculus was almost an anthology film.

Before Oculus made its way to the big screen, it was first an acclaimed short film. How did Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard approach adapting the short into a feature? “That’s a big question,” Flanagan said, “because it is just one dude in a room. How do you stretch that out to a feature length without losing interest? So it took a while. We threw a lot of darts before we hit on it. The biggest thing became not trying to redo the short, but to try to take what it was that people enjoyed about the experience of watching it, and try to expand that.”

Once you see the movie, there is no denying the evil that lies within the mirror. Flanagan was clearly still intrigued by the power of the device, telling us, “[O]ne of the things that I love about this mirror – we had always kind of talked about it as a portable Overlook Hotel [from Stephen King's The Shining]. It’s like you can pick it up and put it anywhere… What’s great is like, if you drop it into a different room with a different person, it’s going to behave as differently as someone’s reflection is. Like there are so many chances to tell new stories… One of the first incarnations that we kind of tried on for size for the feature was to do an anthology movie. Like, to do three 30 minute shorts, essentially, that were just connected by the mirror. I’m glad we went this way instead. I like this better, but it was always – it felt like there was kind of an endless number of stories we could tell.”

Flanagan has said that Stephen King is a major influence on his work. Were there any other horror icons he looked to when he approached Oculus? “One of the things that was really important to me was looking at movies like The Exorcist which give you like 47 minutes before anything really overtly supernatural occurs,” he said. “It was like, OK, the thing that is going to make the genre elements and the tension really land for that second half is only if we feel normal with that. And a lot of horror movies don’t want to go that way, because they assume the audience doesn’t have the patience for it… So there’s definitely a calculated risk in trying to let the bedrock of the family dynamics and the characterizations take the time they’re going to take to congeal, so that when did kind of drop the throttle, you would feel that kind of tipping-on-a-roller-coaster feeling, and we could let that run and not let go of somebody’s throat for the second half… It’s certainly not the way a lot of horror movies will come at it, and I’m glad it worked.”

Oculus, starring Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff,  Brenton Thwaites and Rory Cochrane, and directed by Mike Flanagan is in theaters now. For more from about the film check out Nerdist News’ interviews with Flanagan and the cast.

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