Maika Monroe And Osgood Perkins Introduce Satanic Thriller Longlegs

It’s not usually difficult to get filmmakers to discuss their creative process, but when it comes to revealing any specific inspirations for the titular demonic serial killer Longlegs (played by Nicolas Cage), writer/director Osgood Perkins plays coy.

“If you’re a writer, you need to show up to the job every day like you’re a construction worker or a dentist, as that’s the only way inspiration can keep unexpectedly percolating up from the universe”, he told Zavvi. “In this case, the idea started simply; I was fascinated with the idea of a guy who showed up at your kid’s birthday party uninvited.

“He was a sort of clown, maybe played an instrument or had puppets, but was bad at it, and he had performance anxiety and plastic surgery. The starting point was a straightforward one – a story about a guy who’s dirty, shifty and weird.”

Is he understating his creative process so his film maintains a dark mystique? Very possibly, as those loose, humble origins don’t sound like they’d translate to the best-reviewed horror film of the year so far, a 90s set mystery where FBI agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) has been assigned to investigate a string of grisly murders stretching back 30 years.

No case is related, yet the details are near similar – fathers who inexplicably killed their families in cold blood before turning their weapons on themselves. The only running connection appears to be that each of the children targeted was born on the 14th of their birth month.

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It’s no secret who is responsible from the first scene onwards, but how and why Cage’s unhinged loner has orchestrated these deaths across decades is designed to leave viewers guessing.

“I wanted to make a movie that sounds like The Silence of the Lambs but didn’t feel like it – it invited people in with that false sense of security, even though it’s not that at all! Every once in a while, as a writer, you get a happy moment, and for me the happiest moment was realising that a serial killer procedural could become totally supernatural.

“Why don’t people do that all the time?”

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Lambs is, of course, a high watermark of the genre, not least because it swept the Oscars in a way no other horror has been able to replicate. Monroe was aware signing onto the film that viewers would naturally form comparisons between her performance and that of Jodie Foster, but she didn’t want to shy away from looking to her as an influence – after all, that movie is one of her all-time favourites, as she told Zavvi.

“I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time, it was one of my favourite movie experiences, so it was always important to bring aspects of it in here – but there are clear differences between Lee and Clarice Starling, especially in how they move through life. After spending so much time with Lee, I think the only real similarities between the two are that they’re FBI agents after a scary serial killer!

“She’s up there as one of the best characters I’ve ever played, and I knew that to do justice to her, I had to delve into her history in the same way a therapist would. The first question they always ask when you begin working with you is “tell me about your childhood”, and Lee had a pretty horrific one I needed to work backwards from.

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“The things she’s been through are traumatic and can change a person, but her instinct is to suppress and push those memories down, even whilst knowing those will slowly bubble to the surface eventually. It was important to single out those moments where things would come out – and, as an actor, quite fun as well!”

In short, her muted temperament couldn’t be further from Longlegs himself. Monroe only shares one scene with Cage, but I was intrigued to learn how she prepared herself for such a drastic clash of energies.

“I approached that scene as written on the page as a dance between the two of them. I mean, it’s an honour to be sitting across from Nic Cage as it is, but to see this performance just two feet away was as incredible, disturbing and beautiful as you would expect!”

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You won’t be surprised to hear that Cage is larger than life here, often feeling like the human incarnation of Satan himself. It’s as captivating as any Cage performance, but as it’s within a brooding psychological chiller, I found myself wondering if Perkins ever worried audiences may find his darkly cartoonish energy jarring considering what surrounds it.

“There are many things to worry about when making a movie – and worrying that Nicolas Cage won’t give you what you need will never be one of them! From our very first phone call, we were in step with each other in how we viewed the project, and he understood Longlegs’ dark sense of play right from the start.

“I had nothing but confidence in him from the beginning – and he’s Nic Cage, I always had the sense that it would be fine at worst. Luckily, it turned out far better than that!”

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The film has naturally invited comparisons to Stephen King, not least because Perkins has already filmed his follow-up, an adaptation of King’s short story The Monkey. You can feel the influence of King all over Longlegs too, but when bringing this up, I got the sense the director was a little daunted by being likened to him.

“Stephen King permeates everything we do in the horror genre, there’s nobody in the world whose voice has impacted it to the same extent, especially in America. He’s an automatic influence without ever thinking about him directly, he’s always churning through your system; to say he’s a direct influence would be like any rock star saying John Lennon was an influence, he’s the voice that’s always there.

“So I never thought about King in that way – everybody from Lou Reed to Gus Van Sant were more direct, prominent influences in how I thought about their work in relation to this. Stephen King will always be in the DNA automatically.”

But if you watch Longlegs and are expecting more of the same when The Monkey arrives in cinemas in the New Year, you’ll be disappointed – Perkins has already teased that it’ll be “completely different”. Based on this movie though, I doubt it will make for a relaxing evening at the cinema.

Longlegs is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 12th July.

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Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.