WGTC: So how would Oculus have played out as an anthology?
Mike Flanagan: Initially I wanted to do eight or nine short films that could maybe be cut together into a feature. Our first approach to expanding it was we’re never going to be able to sustain one man in a room for 90 minutes. Do you do three half hours stories and let the mirror be the connective tissue? Anthology movies also hadn’t caught back on like they have now with V/H/S and The ABCs Of Death, so it didn’t feel natural for the story. What was more exciting as we were throwing ideas around was trying to take two distinctive stories and braid them together in an interesting way that would give us one experience. That ultimately was more appealing to me than the anthology angle.
Because of the nature of the mirror itself, there are a lot of stories you can tell – there is an anthology quality anyway.
WGTC: What was your experience like working with Blumhouse Productions, and what advantages does Jason bring with him?
Trevor Macy: Jason actually came on in Toronto when the film was more or less finished. The stamp of approval we’re very grateful for, and he came on because we were doing something different, which is what we set out to do. He’s been great about wanting to bring that fresh voice to the widest audience possible. He’s amazing with marketing, he knows his audience really well, and also as we aspire to do, he respects them. It’s been great to have him.
Mike Flanagan: My experience with him is like being really excited that he’s taking a brand he’s built on very successful pictures, and being a horror fan I’m intricately familiar with his work, but being able to put that brand on something different than what he usually puts out has been awesome for me – and so has his enthusiasm for that.
WGTC: I’m sure it must be exciting to see your film listed amongst Jason’s massive catalog of films…
Mike Flanagan: It is! It’s a really impressive pedigree. I don’t think I ever would have expected people would be naming this movie in the same sentence as Paranormal Activity and Insidious. It’s really exciting from that perspective as a horror fan.
Trevor Macy: The movie is also a little different, but we’ve always aspired to have it seen by a wide audience. There’s a lot of horror I love, and Mike loves, that never sees the light of day. Some of it’s really great. We think and hope this film has the capability to connect, and Jason has been really helpful with that.
WGTC: So is there any significance with mirrors in your life? Why did you pick a mirror as your tool for horror?
Mike Flanagan: I think mirrors are just creepy. They’ve always creeped me out. The reason is our self image, the image we carry around that we think we look like, is wrong. First it’s backwards, then every mirror is imperfect. The surface is full of tiny flaws we don’t think about. Everything we see in that reflection, that we perceive as reality, is actually distorted. From a narrative point of view, it’s so much fun. I love things like the Jewish tradition of covering mirrors at funerals to prevent spirits from entering our world, viewing the mirror as a gateway, it’s just so cool. For me, mirrors have been used in horror cinema as an aspect of a story, but I wanted to try and do something where it was front and center, which hadn’t been attempted that often. Mirrors gave it a shot, and for me Prince of Darkness used them really, really well – it was just exciting. I was that kid who stayed up at night and played Bloody Mary in the mirror to freak himself out, so that’s been really appealing.
WGTC: Was it hard to contain that dual reality aspect of Oculus?
Mike Flanagan: It was really challenging, it was a very intricate structure to attack from a writing point of view, and it asked a lot of the cast. It always promised to be this fun trip through editorial – it was always going to be fun to edit. I come from an editing background, which is why I want to do this stuff. It was certainly challenging, but we were lucky enough to have a cast that was game for it.
WGTC: Was it hard scaring your child actors every chance you got?
Mike Flanagan: [Laughing] They weren’t scared at all! The amazing thing about kids is they’re pretty fearless when it comes to acting. Working on the horror film, all the scary parts are funny – they’re only scary when it all comes together…
Trevor Macy: Comedy is the scariest to do…
Mike Flanagan: Yeah! But the kids were having a blast. When they had to be in physical danger and deal with the real gritty stuff, the adults were really nervous about the kids, but these kids didn’t care at all.
Trevor Macy: I didn’t think I’d be making a movie where you had to give a kid a safe word.
WGTC: So we found out recently you’d be directing a picture called Diver, a horror film with a pretty trippy concept. What can you tell us about it?
Mike Flanagan: Diver is really cool. Trevor and I are working on it again, it’ll be our third in a row, and Diver is the biggest and darkest movie I’ve gotten to work on. It’s dark stuff, but there’s a thrilling aspect which is new to me and really fun to play with. There are horror elements to it, but genre fans will connect like they did with Flatliners or Angel Heart, and there’s some Inception stuff in there – it’s very mind bending. I’m so excited about it. It’s wicked fun, which will be really fun to come on to after these last two films.
That concludes our interview but I’d like to thank Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy for their time. Be sure to catch Oculus when it opens on April 11th!
For more on the film, check out our video interview with Mike and the cast below.