Maika Monroe: Longlegs’ new-gen scream queen

The Californian actor is the star of terrifying horror Longlegs, a decade after she was the star of another terrifying horror, It Follows. Here’s how pro kiteboarding’s loss was fright night’s gain...

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Go to the cinema to see Longlegs and as soon as the lights dim, you will be.

Everything about the new occult horror from writer/​director Osgood Oz” Perkins is scary, from the trailer to the pre-titles sequence, to the score, to the use of a deep-cut T‑Rex tune, to the wintry setting of Oregon in 1993, right the way to the end-credits.

Even the filmmaker is implicitly scary. He’s the son of actor Anthony Perkins, aka Norman Bates in Psycho – a genre classic directly referenced in the season’s other buzzy horror, MaXXXine. In Oz’s own past acting life, his first role was playing a 12-year-old Norman in the belated 1983 sequel to Hitchcock’s 1960 film.

Longlegs’ trailer is a cryptic capsule creepshow and a viral phenomenon in its own right, with over 11 million views since it debuted on 20th May. Its tagline – As many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed”, an apocalyptic Biblical quote from Revelation 13:15 – conjures end-of-days dread from its archaic Satanic language. Who knew movie marketing could be this deadly?

Maika Monroe knows all this, but insists that the making of Longlegs was, er, a hoot. Unfortunately, or maybe rather fortunately, it was not scary at all,” says the 31-year-old Californian, cheerfully. We had a lot of fun on set. After takes, Oz would be behind the monitor just laughing to himself!” Sounds pretty creepy to us.

The actor plays Lee Harker, an FBI agent tasked with cracking the unsolved case of the serial killer known as Longlegs (Nicholas Cage). His speciality” is slaying entire families, but with a killer kink – a detail we’ll withhold, just as we’ll avoid details of just how deliciously twisted Cage’s monster looks, acts and sounds.

It’s Maika’s second surefire horror hit: she was also the lead in It Follows, the 2014 indie phenom. Throw in rumours of a sequel to that cult chiller and it makes her a new-gen scream queen, which is a long way from the career she was set on pursuing as a teenager: professional kiteboarding.

Still, that hand-eye-brain coordination came in handy for our interview – Maika spoke to us while driving across Los Angeles, from her home to a hair appointment. Don’t worry,” she said reassuringly. The thing is, in LA we’re quite used to driving and talking. There’s actually something quite nice about it. While driving I always find myself, you know, calling my mom or friends or something.”

Or chatting about battling serial-killer freaks and surviving diabolical, sexually-transmitted entities.

Hey, Maika – please don’t crash when you hear this top comment on the Longlegs trailer. This might be the best marketing for a horror film since the original Blair Witch Project. This is how you generate excitement for your film.” Do you agree with that assessment?

I think it’s brilliant. [Production/​distribution company] Neon is doing such an incredible job, it feels almost like an extension of the film. Oz has talked about this – the reason he went with Neon is because they understood this film, loved it, and clearly had such a brilliant idea [to promote it]. Nowadays with the internet, so much is revealed. I will watch a trailer and it’s like, oh, I know what the whole movie is about. So this is very refreshing.

So, who is Lee Harker?

She’s a young FBI agent who’s incredibly skilled at her craft. She’s brought on to this case that they can’t crack – this serial killer who is killing these families. They bring her on and they start to realise that she’s very intuitive, and is very gifted at slowly starting to piece this case together.

She does have an odd, stilled quality to her. I’m thinking of the scene when she’s sitting on the kid’s bed… What makes her so uncomfortable in that environment?

Ah, that was one of my favourite scenes to shoot. Lee is very uncomfortable holding normal conversation and being social. That is not where she likes to be. She’s much more comfortable on her own. So that dynamic with this young kid was very fun to play with.

Also, Lee went through a very traumatic experience when she was about nine. I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s known that when you go through something like that, especially at a young age, there’s this lack of growth or maturity. You get stunted at that particular age. That was something interesting to layer into Lee, where there’s this sort of naivety and youngness [sic] to her.

Do you remember your directions for that scene?

I don’t know if there was really any direction. But a very important line is said in that scene. Lee says: When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress.” There’s something heartbreaking about it. Prior to nine years old, there was a very different version of Lee. Probably this young girl that was loud and had these big dreams. And everything changed for her.

What was your reaction when you first saw Nicolas Cage in full Longlegs regalia?

It was a dream come true! I had all these ideas in my head, visualising what he would look like. Then when I saw him for the first time, which was in the [REDACTED] scene, I wasn’t shown any photos prior to filming that day – I had no idea what I was walking into. I was just in absolute awe of what Nic did with this role. He’s just brilliant. All parts of Nic disappeared behind this incredible monster, Longlegs.

What’s he like to work with?

Incredible. From an actor’s standpoint, seeing him completely transform into this character – his voice, his mannerisms, the aesthetic of his character – I was just blown away. I’m such a fan of Nic. He’s an icon, and he makes such incredible choices. Working opposite him was one of those moments where it felt very surreal.

What does the early 90s* setting bring to this movie? [*Specifically 1993, the year Maika was born.]

Oh, God, that was one of my favourite choices that Oz made. One of my favourite films of all time is Silence of the Lambs, and also Seven. There’s such nostalgia around that time period. And it’s just so nice not having cell phones and technology – I feel like that’s always used in films to help get the story across. So it’s just refreshing to have this film set in that time.

Oz has horror in his blood. Do you think him having a genetic disposition towards the genre helps make this movie as great as it is?

I mean, perhaps! To make something great, you need all the pieces to come together. And Oz did that. I’m sure that his upbringing in film helped him. He’s clearly very comfortable. To me, this is what he is meant to do.

You started acting and kiteboarding around the same age, 13. How did you balance those teenage pursuits?

I was so in love with acting, and I wanted it so bad. But the industry is really tough on you. You’re told so many no’s. Especially at that age, as a young teenager, it was hard mentally. It was starting to become less and less enjoyable for me. And kiteboarding is sort of what saved me… because I had control over it and I felt empowered by it.

So I was leaning away from acting around 17. That’s when I pretty much was gonna give up. I let go of my agent and was, like, I’m going to pursue kiteboarding fully. I was getting very good and I wanted to go professional, start competing. So I left and moved to the Dominican Republic to do that professionally.

I was there for about nine months. But I would occasionally send in audition tapes [for] things that I really liked or that I wanted to do. And I ended up booking one of those, my first film [2012’s At Any Price, alongside Zac Efron]. That sort of yanked me back into the industry and, well, here we are!

Around then you also filmed Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. As a paid-up member of Generation Harry Potter, what was it like working with Emma Watson?

Yeah, I grew up loving Harry Potter! They’re still to this day some of my favourite films. I was super young and very green to the industry, so it was very surreal. And I love, love, love Sofia’s films. She has such an incredible eye. And, yeah, clearly an eye for young female talent. So it was really an honour to work with her and be part of that.

We’re now 10 years on from It Follows (“that’s crazy”). How did that script read to you?

Oh, man, I was like: what in the world in this movie? Reading it, I really wasn’t sure… You’ve seen the film, you know the concept behind it, so imagine reading it. You’d be like: What in the hell? There’s an STD, then you have sex, then you pass it on…?” I was like: I really don’t know about this…”

But I talked with [writer/​director] David [Robert Mitchell], and he sent me his look-book. His vision for it seemed so incredibly unique – pairing this disturbing horror film with these elegant, beautiful shots. So that was the beginning.

Still, you have no idea what you’re making. It was a tiny film, I think made for under a million dollars. We could have never expected what happened when it came out.

I interviewed The Watched director Ishana Shyamalan last month. She named It Follows as one of her favourite horrors of all time. She said: I keep watching that movie over and over again, because I find it so scary and masterful. I really appreciate that slow horror. I was reading something with the director where he talks of the idea that you always think a threat is going to run at you. But the idea that it walks slowly – it’s more about the persistence of that scary thing. That’s 10 times scarier to me than any kind of singular jump-scare.” She’s right, right?

Yes, she is! I like that.

Apart from scary movies, what scares you?

Not much. I love horror movies. I love being scared. But I try to avoid haunted houses – like, actually haunted houses. Those scare me.

Does the prospect of a Trump presidency scare you?

Ah, yes, it does! Yes, it does.

If push comes to shove, scariest film of all time?

The movie that disturbed me most, and I don’t recommend anyone to watch it, is [the 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 original] The Hills Have Eyes. It genuinely makes me ill. That movie fucked me uuuuup.

Now: please tell us it’s true that They Follow is happening.

Indeed it is.

Have you seen anything of a script?

Oh, yes, certainly have. It’s incredible. I definitely was a bit hesitant and nervous – anytime a sequel is brought up, you never know. But David is brilliant. People are going to be incredibly pleased, and I don’t think that fans will be let down. We start [filming] at the beginning of next year. So you will have to be patient. But it is coming. Do not fret!

What do your folks make of you being a scream queen?

Ha! They’re quite proud of me. Neither of them are horror fans, so they will watch, but it’s tough for them. They have to see me terrified and running and screaming and crying. I feel a bit bad for them.

Longlegs is in cinemas from 12th July

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