How better to premiere a scary movie about the way we interact with one of the objects most prevalent in our lives, than with a midnight premiere at SXSW? Granted, you won’t see a lot of mirrors being hawked at the tech-obsessed convention, but producer Jason Blum knew that his new film “Oculus” was right in the festival’s wheelhouse.
“I love South By because people are more relaxed here, and people are a little more off guard,” Blum told MTV News in advance of the premiere. “They say things and react more freely than Sundance, or Cannes. I love the feel of this festival.”
Blum is no stranger to the midnight SXSW horror screening, either. The prolific producer has stewarded mega-hits like “Paranormal Activity,” “The Purge,” and “Insidious;” the last of which had a successful midnight premiere at the convention in 2011.
“Oculus” is the latest jewel in Blum’s scary crown, starring Karen Gillan (of the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Doctor Who”) as a woman who gets mixed into a terrifying situation involving a possibly supernatural mirror. And like “Insidious,” “Oculus” got its premiere at SXSW to a packed late-night crowd of excited horror fans.
“I don’t like to repeat, but hopefully we’ll have a different but successful premiere with this movie,” Blum added. “One of my favorite things about making horror movies is, the first time you screen them in front of an audience, it’s very fun to hear people audibly react to the work you put into a movie. You don’t wonder at the end of the movie whether it worked or not.”
And though Blum likes to hear the audiences scream in terror, to the veteran producer it’s more important to look at what happens when the audience isn’t climbing out of their seats in terror.
“The key to a good horror movie is what happens between the scares,” Blum said. “The scares aren’t the tricky part. If you’re involved in what’s going on in between, the scare is going to trick you. If you’re not, the best scare in the world will not be scary.”
Blum first encountered “Oculus” at the Toronto International Film Festival when writer/director Mike Flanagan screened the at-that-point undistributed film. Blum loved the movie, and decided to set up a similar arrangement to the one he had with “Paranormal Activity.”
“The acting is terrific,” Blum continued. “The story is great, and it’s original. What a horror audience is always looking for is new scary material. ['Oculus'] feels different.”
And ultimately, given the movies subject matter Blum is confident the movie will connect.
“We all spend a lot of time — hopefully not too much time — with the mirror,” Blum said laughing. “Looking at ourselves, looking at your soul in the mirror, and there’s something creepy about that. The hope is the audience comes out of the movie and never looks in a mirror again!”
“Oculus” will hit theaters on April 11.