Interview with Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan is the writer and director of the breakout horror hit Absentia, which swept the festival circuit and releases on DVD today (distributed by Phase 4 films).  The film’s numerous awards are well deserved – for my money it was the most frightening film of the Toronto After Dark festival and its creepy, character driven horror has stayed with me since that screening (you can read my in-depth review here).
Recently I spoke to Mike Flanagan, who was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his film.

Q: Do you have any experience with role-playing games (computer or tabletop)?  Have they ever influenced your work, or the way you tell stories?

A: I’m afraid I don’t … my college roommate was heavily into D&D, though.  But then again, I don’t even have time to watch television since the birth of my son, so it’s probably for the best.

Q: The monster from your film is truly creepy (and very hard to forget, thanks to a certain Psycho worthy scene).  What was the inspiration for its design?

A: It’s funny, there really isn’t a detailed depiction of the monster anywhere.  We always knew we couldn’t afford to really show it, so it was more about conveying general characteristics than an actual design.  I always thought of it like a giant silverfish, but with some odd Lovecraftian touches.  If you slow a certain shot of the film down, you can actually see it has at least one tentacle.

Q: People have been telling stories about the monsters that inhabit the darkness at campfires since the dawn of time (an illustrious tradition that now includes Absentia).  Other than the creature from your own film, in your view, what is the greatest monster and why do you think it frightens us?

A: I think we’re frightened by monsters because they’re there, and they shouldn’t be.  Kids get that.  No one does monsters as well as kids.  The one under the bed, the one in the closet … nothing will ever be that scary.  Kids figured out that the scariest part about a monster isn’t what it looks like, or what it can do, but WHERE IT IS.  I think a lot of our monster stories are about putting an inexplicable element of danger into a place that should be safe.  For kids, the monsters that scare them tend to be vague things that live in the dark … we all have a genetically essential fear of the dark, and I think that the scariest thing about monster stories isn’t about the monsters themselves … it’s that they’re there at all.

Q: Actors Katie Parker and Courtney Bell did a tremendous job portraying a troubled sibling relationship, complete with the kind of baggage-laden button pushing we reserve for the ones we love.  Was this scripted or was this something organic that developed between the actors?

A: It was a little bit of both.  They stayed on script for the dialogue, but the dialogue was written with their relationship (which is very sisterly) in mind.  I wrote them the way I’d seen Katie and Courtney interact before, so it wasn’t a stretch.  They bring a lot of their own relationship to those characters.

Q: Seeing as you were able to fund Absentia through Kickstarter, I’m not sure that the size of the budget necessarily defines good horror filmmaking.  That said, if money were no object, what is the story you’ve been dying to tell but never had the budget for?

A: Since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to adapt The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike.  It’s a really cool book about a voyage to Mars that turns into one hell of a vampire story.  I’ve always had that one kicking around in my head.  But if I had to choose one impossible dream, it would be to adapt Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  I know that Ron Howard is giving it a shot right now, and I have really mixed feeling about that.  But that would be my dream project.

Q: What current projects are you working on?  Do you intend to return to the horror genre?

A: I do indeed.  I have two projects in development right now, both horror films.  It’s kind of a race to see which one gets made first, actually.  I’m very excited about both, and think that fans of Absentia will really respond to them.  They both have much bigger budgets, but will also be character-driven horror films.  Thanks for your support of our little movie, and for spreading the word … it really means the world to a little film like ours.

You can follow Mike on his website here.


2 Responses to Interview with Mike Flanagan

  1. Adam Lopez says:

    Thanks for the fantastic coverage!
    I am trying to contact find out who did all the amazing reviews at the website Menage a Monster on Toronto After Dark Film Festival last year, As on behalf of the filmmakers I would love to thank them. Please email me at my contact details below!



    Festival Director
    OCTOBER 18-26, 2012
    Horror, Sci-Fi, Action & Cult Movies

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