“Presence,” a twisty new thriller that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, has sold to Neon.
The movie, which is directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, puts an inventive spin on the haunted house genre. It unfolds from the perspective of the spectral entity and is primarily interested in dramatizing the issues of the people living in the home, who seem to be grappling with a lot of interpersonal problems.
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“I wanted to find a different way to tell the story,” Soderbergh told Variety in a recent profile. “Everything is revealed through the glimpses of this family that this presence sees. And the whole ghost genre element is a Trojan horse to show a group of people in danger of falling apart.”
It’s unclear how much Neon paid for “Presence,” but the deal is for worldwide rights.
The market at Sundance has been slower than usual, with deals taking longer to hammer out — that’s a sign of how challenging the box office has become for indie pictures. “A Real Pain” with Jesse Eisenberg and Kieran Culkin sold for $10 million to Searchlight Pictures, while Netflix scooped up the horror film “It’s What’s Inside” for $17 million. There’s also a bidding war going on for “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story,” while the likes of the June Squibb comedy “Thelma” and the documentary “Gaucho Gaucho” have drawn interest from buyers.
The film’s premiere was a spirited affair, one that saw certain audience members fleeing for the exits, even as “Presence” was generally well received. Lucy Liu, who stars in the film, seemed to have been genuinely unsettled by the on-screen paranormal activity. “I’m just devastated,” Liu said in a Q&A after the premiere. “My body is having reactions as if I wasn’t in the movie.”
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman had a mixed review of the film, writing, “‘Presence,’ in its showy angst, winks at topicality, in the same way that it winks at lot of other things (like things that go bump in the night, or the rise of teenage mental illness, or serial killers). But it’s just flirting with all of them. You want the movie to add up to something, but what it adds up to is another half-diverting, half-satisfying Soderbergh bauble, only this time he’s the ghost in the machine.”
The “Presence” cast also includes Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Eddy Maday and Julia Fox. David Koepp, who previously worked with Soderbergh on “Kimi,” wrote the script. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies, & Videotape,” which premiered at Sundance and helped launch the filmmaker and the festival into the stratosphere.
Neon released “Anatomy of a Fall,” which earned five Oscar nominations, including nods for best picture and best director.
Sugar 23 brokered the deal on behalf of the filmmakers. Deadline first reported news of the sale.