Mike Flanagan Discusses Oculus, Somnia And The Themes That Make Horror Movies Connect


Finally out in the UK this week is Mike Flanagan's Oculus, a horror film about an evil, manipulative mirror. Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites star, but Flanagan himself is the man of the match.

He's written an assured screenplay, staged it superbly and cut it with great efficacy. People really responded well to Oculus when it rolled out in the US earlier in the Spring, but I think we only need to give it a little time before it's crowned as a classic of the genre.

I spoke to Flanagan a couple of weeks ago. Here's what he had to tell me about the themes of the film, why he's invested in them, and their relationship to his next movie, Somnia.

I think that for someone like me, monsters and ghosts are very real but only in so much as the ones we create, the ones we are all haunted by. They have everything to do with our past, with regrets, mistakes we've made, people and time we've lost.

I think that, in a lot of ways, horror is a way to try and explore those ideas in a highly stylised, intense and metaphorical way. That's what I hope makes Oculus relevant and appealing to people. We all have our ghosts and we all live in haunted houses because we have a hard time letting go of things. The past always does bubble up, it's never that far away.

This has certainly become a theme that I'm aware is permeating a lot of my projects, but I find it way more fascinating than just trying to tell a story about a group of teenagers being dismembered by a psychopath. That might be fun, might be gory and might be popular, I don't think it's relatable or real. We can all connect to feeling haunted by our own selves, our own choices, but not necessarily by running away barefooted from someone with a chainsaw. Though I think the genre needs that too, it's certainly valid and there's an audience for escapism, it's not what attracts me to a project.

Somnia, even more than Oculus, is dealing with intense feelings of loss, and of the worse kind. I don't know if there's any real world horror, or a personal level at least, that can compare with losing a child. I think my other movies have been building up to Somnia in a way, and after it's done I'm going to have to go make a comedy because it's getting really sad over here. Somnia is just about finished but the earliest it could come out is September or October, though next spring is probably more likely.

Thanks again to Flanagan for taking the time to talk to me. His next production, incidentally, won't be a comedy or a musical, but an adaptation of Stephen King's Gerald's Game. This will be one of the rarer, better King movies, I bet you.

Oculus is out in the UK this Friday, the 13th of June. I'm a little bit in love with it.