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‘Longlegs’ Director Osgood Perkins on Why He Avoids Contemporary Horror

Longlegs movie promotional image

Longlegs filmmaker Osgood “Oz” Perkins is surprisingly calm despite the career-high acclaim he’s receiving. His latest horror-thriller, led by Maika Monroe and Nicolas Cage, has generated substantial buzz due to Neon’s exceptional marketing efforts, making it a highly anticipated film. This eerie procedural, centered on an FBI agent’s pursuit of a Satanic serial killer, seems more than deserving of the hype. Previously, Perkins had a role in Jordan Peele’s Nope as director Fynn Bachman.

Perkins’ Longlegs hits theaters this Friday, joining the newly released MaXXXine by Ti West. These films share a unique connection: MaXXXine features scenes shot on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film Psycho. Perkins’ father, Anthony Perkins, became a cultural icon playing Norman Bates in Psycho, a role that explores Perkins’ complex relationship with the horror genre. MaXXXine even nods to Psycho II, where a young Oz Perkins played a part.

“My dad was a real shining light in the genre, creating one of the most indelible characters in movies,” says Perkins. “But there was also this uneasy feeling. When I was about 12 to 15, he was making bad horror movies for money, which upset my mom. This disparity between his zenith with Psycho and the poor quality of later works has always made me uneasy about horror.” This mixed feeling about horror films has profoundly influenced Perkins’ own work in the genre.

Creating his own horror films allows him to reconcile this unease. However, Perkins admits he avoids watching contemporary horror. “I’m not someone who likes or dislikes horror movies. I don’t see new ones. They don’t interest me, but that’s not to say they aren’t great and make others happy. Horror permits the most invention and poetry. I prefer that over more literal interpretations of real-life horror like Jeffrey Dahmer retellings,” Perkins elaborates.

Longlegs explores the lies parents tell to protect their children, an idea that resonates with Perkins both as a son and a father. “I try not to tell my children protective lies. Growing up, I saw truths curated to sustain the family, not maliciously. The movie’s theme of a mother dressing her children in a protective narrative stemmed from that,” Perkins explains.

In a conversation with THR, Perkins also discussed changing his mind about casting Monroe and previewed his forthcoming film, The Monkey, based on Stephen King’s short story.

After watching Longlegs, I couldn’t help but think of the Psycho set used in MaXXXine. How did your father’s legacy influence your current work?

“As a son, there’s an inherent pursuit of who your parent is. My dad was a standout in the genre with Psycho, but his later years saw him doing bad horror movies for money. This disparity created an unease in me about the genre that I carry into my work today,” Perkins shares. He acknowledges a distaste for newer horror movies, showing more interest in classical, poetic horror like Tod Browning’s Dracula.

The theme of parental lies in Longlegs is so resonant. Was this inspired by lies from your parents or ones you’ve told your own children?

“I try not to tell my kids protective lies. I grew up seeing truths curated to keep the family together. The movie’s theme arose from this idea of a mother creating a protective narrative like a hazmat suit for her kids,” Perkins notes. He emphasizes that the starting point for him is finding an essential truth and then constructing the story around it.

Besides this personal theme, were there other inspirations like Silence of the Lambs or the JonBenét Ramsey case?

Silence of the Lambs serves as a familiar entry point for audiences, setting the stage for our story. As for the Ramsey case, its complexity intrigued me. Details like a life-sized doll of JonBenét in the basement during her murder left a lasting impression and influenced the film,” Perkins shares.

Behind the scenes with DP Andrés Arochi and Oz Perkins on the set of <em>Longlegs</em>” /><figcaption class=DP Andrés Arochi and Oz Perkins on the set of Longlegs

Did Nicolas Cage develop the Longlegs character beforehand, or was it a collaborative process?

“It was collaborative. Nic stuck closely to the script without improvising, and we discussed who this person was extensively. By the time he arrived to shoot, he was fully immersed, treating the character with intense focus,” Perkins reveals.

What makes Maika Monroe particularly suited for genre films?

“Maika can conceal something significant on screen, which is crucial in horror where revelations and concealments are key. She, like other actors I admire, can convey deep, submerged emotions that fit well with the genre’s requirements,” Perkins explains. He respects how her off-screen persona contrasts sharply with her on-screen presence, adding to her filmability.

Nicolas Cage as Longlegs in the film
Nicolas Cage as Longlegs in Longlegs

Rapidly, Monroe came to mind for the role of Lee Harker. Why did she initially face resistance?

“Initially, casting takes time as you envision the potential outcome with various actors. Once I met Maika, her suitability was clear, but it required considering different paths before finalizing,” Perkins reflects. He praises her ability to transform intensely on camera.

Your homage to Jordan Peele in the credits – is he part of your creative circle?

“Jordan is a friend who shares his work process with me. That support is invaluable. Creative camaraderie with people you respect, like Jordan, provides much-needed encouragement,” Perkins admits.

Lastly, your adaptation of King’s “The Monkey” is said to be comedic. How does it differ from your usual tone?

“It’s my funniest work yet, adopting a more comedic tone about the harsh reality of death. The film channels a kind of absurdist, wry humor reminiscent of Landis, Dante, and Zemeckis,” Perkins explains. This new direction excited him as it felt more genuine for the material.

Perkins finds himself often gravitating towards female protagonists as they add an element of mystery and challenge to his storytelling, keeping him curious and engaged.

Reflecting on his childhood, Perkins admits he can’t remember his ninth birthday, likening the experience to the elusive recall central to Longlegs.

Longlegs opens in theaters on July 12.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter