Credit: TIFF

In some horror circles, director Osgood Perkins is regarded as one of the brightest up-and-coming filmmakers around. The spooky twist? Perkins hasn’t actually released a film yet. That, however, is about to change. Perkins says his debut film, the Toronto Film Festival-screened The Blackcoat’s Daughter, will be released early next year while his second movie, the also TIFF-screened I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, premieres on Netflix this Friday.

Osgood’s slow-burning creepfest stars The Affair’s Ruth Wilson as a nurse named Lily who is employed to provide care for a Shirley Jackson-esque horror writer, played by Paula Prentiss (The Parallax View), at what turns out to be the author’s very spooky abode.

“I had written a shorter thing about a woman in a head cast, who was in a bed in an old American house, whose father was a horror writer, and she was being taken care of by nurses,” Osgood recalls of the project’s origins. “Then, one day, it just changed. I’m a believer that, once you start writing something, it does take on a life of its own. I had laid all the track for this one thing, and it just reversed itself, and bloomed into this thing. A lot of the best, dreamy stuff happens that way.”

After Netflix agreed to finance the movie, Osgood met with multiple actresses about the plum role of Lily, who is the only character onscreen for many scenes. “When a script gets greenlit, then everyone starts to care about it,” the director says. “So when Netflix says, ‘Yes, we’ll give you the money that you want, and you can go ahead and make it right away,’ then every agency in town wants their people in it. The whole thing becomes a big interview process and you meet a lot of people. As the writer, I felt a little insecure, honestly, about the script. Ruth Wilson’s response to it was so positive and she was really excited about the poetry of it. I felt like, I can’t believe my luck that I would have such a strong actor, an actually self-possessed stage actor, who is going to really work their ass off in this. It was like, ‘Really? You really want to do this?’ I couldn’t imagine a better scenario and all of a sudden there were no other choices.”

Prentiss, meanwhile, is an old family friend, whose husband, actor-director Richard Benjamin (Westworld, The Sunshine Boys) was a good pal of Osgood’s father, the late Psycho star Anthony Perkins. “They were on Broadway together in the ’60s [in Neil Simon’s The Star-Spangled Girl],” Perkins says. “So when it came time to cast this movie up, and I had this little part of a writer, there was only Paula Prentiss.”

You can see the new trailer for I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House above. The film debuts this Friday on Netflix.