‘Longlegs’ Director Oz Perkins Says the Wild Marketing Campaign Is All Neon: ‘I Would Be a Jackass to Take Too Much Credit’

The marketing campaign for Neon’s “Longlegs” is the most ambitious for a horror movie in recent times. There’s a zodiac killer-level secret code spread in The Seattle Times, a phone number you can dial in to hear star Nicolas Cage whisper threats in a creepy voice (and as advertised on a Los Angeles billboard), and the eerie and elusive trailers and teasers that have dropped so far, mostly leaving Cage’s satanic serial killer out of the bag.

The ’90s-set satanic serial killer horror in the vein of “Seven” and “The Silence of the Lambs” is directed by Osgood Perkins, the “Gretel & Hansel” filmmaker who is, yes, the son of “Psycho” screen scream icon Anthony Perkins. (He also goes by Oz colloquially.) “It Follows” and “Watcher” scream queen Maika Monroe stars as Lee Harker, an emotional shell of an FBI agent with a disturbingly personal connection to a murderer who, through cryptic dispatches, goes by Longlegs. Embodied by Cage in white face paint and a high-pitched voice decibel, he orchestrates gruesome killings from afar, where fathers brutally off their families and then themselves without explanation. Lee’s religious upbringing under a controlling mother might have something to do with the murders — along with the fact that Lee has a psychic predilection for deciphering evidence.

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Neon has released splashy horror movies before, including this year’s “Immaculate,” the Sydney Sweeney-starring nun freakout that grossed more than $23 million worldwide. But the Palme d’Or- and Oscar-winning indie film outfit is going all out with the lead-up to “Longlegs,” headed for theaters July 12. It’s a rare feat of marketing where audiences still are not entirely sure what the movie is about — and in a time where most studio trailers sum up the first two-thirds of a movie in under three minutes. (Cage also recently told Entertainment Weekly why you won’t see his character in all his full deranged, devil-worshipping glory in any trailer.)

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Perkins said he shouldn’t get much credit for the promotion on “Longlegs,” which Neon acquired while the film was still shooting in Vancouver in early 2023. (Perkins already has two more horror titles set up at Neon, including the Stephen King adaptation “The Monkey,” starring Theo James and Tatiana Maslany and out February 21 next year.)

“I would be a jackass to take too much credit for what they’ve done,” Perkins said. “[Neon] really responded strongly to the movie, the raw materials of the movie really excited them, the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it sounds. They asked me early on, ‘Do we have your permission to kind of go nuts?’ And I said, ‘What else are we doing here? Go for it. Do your thing.’”

Perkins, though, had one non-negotiable for advertising his movie shot by cinematographer Andrés Arochi. “The only thing I ever asked them to do was, early on, when they started showing me trailers, I said, ‘Please just maintain the aspect ratio… Please don’t crop the square things and try to force them into something else.’” (The movie switches between aspect ratios as it shifts in time from the ’90s to as far back as the 1970s.)

“The initial response from them was sort of like, ‘Oh yeah, totally Perkins, uh huh, sure.’ But they maintained it, and it’s become such a part of the look of the ad campaign, which is honoring that observational square we use,” Perkins said. “It’s extremely gratifying. I love my partnership with Neon.”

Neon has also savvily sourced first reviews from mostly the genre crowd as well as influencers following a surprise early June screening at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles. All have been raves thus far, while not denying the movie’s general fucked-up energy and serious scares — the sort of picture that elicits the feeling of looking at a crime scene photo, something we aren’t meant to see but nevertheless can’t pull ourselves away from.

“I’m somewhat surprised that people are so kind of terrified by it and find it to be so intense and so gnarly and so grotesque and so brutal,” said Perkins, who intentionally set the movie in 1993 to give us those “Seven” vibes. “I never set out to make anybody feel bad. I don’t know that any filmmaker necessarily does, although there’s a couple of people who I wonder if their intention is to make people feel bad. I don’t like those movies at all. But for me, honestly, I just tried to make something that was good and that people would want to enjoy.”

Perkins added that Neon came on board before even seeing the full movie. “They knew Nic from [‘Pig’], and they had a great experience with him. He’s Nic Cage, so it doesn’t require any qualifiers. They came on when we were still shooting. They went on a big trust fall with us, and it’s worked out.”

“Longlegs” opens from Neon on Friday, July 12. Check back on IndieWire in July for more conversation with director Osgood Perkins ahead of the release.

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