Hypnotic is the second feature directorial collaboration between Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote. It also marks their second feature with Netflix, although this time, the film they made was a Netflix Original from the beginning. Previously, Angel and Coote directed the dark thriller Open House starring Dylan Minnette.
Their latest film, Hypnotic, stars The Haunting of Hill House and Hush actress Kate Siegel as Jenn, a young woman grappling with grief who seeks assistance from a therapist named Dr. Meade (Jason O’Mara). After a few sessions, Jenn starts experiencing terrifying visions and disturbances that make her think she’s losing her mind. Dulé Hill also stars.
1428 Elm spoke with Coote and Angel about how their collaborative process has evolved, the thematic elements of Hypnotic, the differences between this film and Open House, and much more.
Interview with Hypnotic directors Suzanne Coote and Matt Angel
1428 ELM: How has your collaborative process evolved since you did Open House together?
SUZANNE COOTE: I think it has evolved in that we have more confidence in working together.
MATT ANGEL: Much quicker decisions. I feel like we had more time to prep on our first film. It was just us and the small crew we were hiring. As much as I say it was quicker in decision-making on that film, we also had more time, but I think to be as quick as we were on this one it was a testament to the evolution of our partnership. You start to speak the same language and know where the other person is going and what decision they would make. It flows more naturally. I think with every film we co-direct, there will continue to be more trust in each other.
SUZANNE: It’s like a muscle that will keep growing. I also think it’s one of our strong suits that we share like 80% of the same brain.
MATT: We finish each other’s sentences often.
1428 ELM: This time around, you guys are directing a script you didn’t write. What drew you to this story?
SUZANNE: Definitely the concept—
MATT: Well, I read it first.
SUZANNE: [Laughs] He did read it first.
MATT: I was like, this has a lot of fun potential. There is an Inception-y vibe meets Fatal Attraction, meets different films we really love. I think the blend of those genres felt fun and fresh in a way where it’s like, I’ve seen that, I’ve seen that, but I’m not sure I’ve seen them all together.
SUZANNE: It’s not lighthearted, but it’s a fun f**king ride.
MATT: It’s a rom-com.
SUZANNE: [Laughs] No! But it’s a blast, and that just felt like, if I were to write what’s in my head right now, it’s dark. It’s dark in there.
MATT: We’re big Rosemary’s Baby fans. That’s like, our tendency.
SUZANNE: Yeah, our tendency is to do that, and it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and discover a new comfort zone.
MATT: That’s true. It’s kind of a fun story that I’ll tell in a really short amount of time. We got the script, and we started throwing out all of these ideas, and I think we scared the s**t out of Netflix for a minute. But then we got on the same page, and it gave us the opportunity to do something different than what we had done. Because our first film, never ever in our wildest dreams, did we think it would become a Netflix Original.
We had made that independently with Dylan Minnette, and when we were writing it, we were like, let’s write a really dark foreign horror thriller. I say foreign because they’re just really disturbing and don’t always have the happiest endings. Then it became a Netflix Original film, and I think people were like, “Oh, s**t,” because it was dark, so to go more of a commercial route for this was fun for us.
SUZANNE: That’s a great way to put it, a commercial route.
1428 ELM: This time, you were working with Netflix from the get-go. Did that change the filmmaking process for you at all?
MATT: Oh yeah.
SUZANNE: It was the first time we directed a script we hadn’t written, so that was very different. In terms of, when we were on set shooting, [Netflix] was very hands-off.
MATT: Not in terms of our process. I say, “Oh, yeah,” because we had a crew.
SUZANNE: We had money. [Laughs]
MATT: Not to diminish the people who worked their butts off on Open House, but we had a larger crew on this since you’re doing a studio film from the outset. You’re going into an office on pre-production. I can’t tell you how many times we said, “Zoom in, look at what we’re getting to experience here.”
SUZANNE: Very easy to practice gratitude. But in terms of the process, like on a micro-level when we were shooting, Netflix was very good and supportive.
SUZANNE: Trusting, and it being our first studio film, we didn’t know what to expect, and it felt like we were shooting Open House in that we got to execute our vision which was really appreciated on our part.
1428 ELM: Open House was about death and loss, while Hypnotic is about mental health and grief, too, in a way. What was your goal setting out thematically for this film?
SUZANNE: We both suffer from mental illness and are big proponents of awareness and help. I could get on my soapbox and talk about how—
MATT: Which kind of sounds contrary to the film we just made in a funny way.
SUZANNE: Which is why we were like, it’s hard because we don’t want to demonize anything. Any part of mental health treatment should be if it works for you, then it works for you, so go for it!
MATT: Don’t be afraid of therapy.
SUZANNE: Yeah, don’t be afraid of therapy, it’s amazing. But I think the mental health aspect, I connected a lot when we were doing a little bit of rewrites with Kate’s character, in terms of her anxiety and a little bit of apathy about things. In terms of Open House, you’re completely right about how it was centered around grief. We brought that as well into Hypnotic.
MATT: I would say, actually, it’s a huge theme of this film, too. To us, to the best of our ability, we want to root things in the theme and what brings Jenn to get help is ultimately grief. That’s what it all boils down to, and you learn that in the film. That also was a huge theme in this film that led her to get help.
1428 ELM: In a lot of ways, it’s about healthy grieving versus unhealthy grieving mechanisms.
MATT: That’s a good way to differentiate it, like Open House was the effects of what can happen if you don’t grieve properly and if you internalize and let it affect you from the inside out. And this is someone who seeks help and is affected by an outside force.
1428 ELM: I also read in a previous interview you did that you credited Michael Haneke as an inspiration on Open House, but Hypnotic is much different tonally and stylistically. Did you turn to another filmmaker for inspiration this time around?
SUZANNE: I think it goes back to the script, we loved the script but it’s more commercial. We wanted to make a commercial thriller for everyone to enjoy, something that everyone who sits down to watch it will enjoy it. We looked at a lot of films.
MATT: I think our number one—you know we have a commercial film, but we also wanted to bring kind of our darker tones to it to the best of our ability—David Fincher is someone we looked to visually on this film, a lot. In terms of just how he moves the camera with the actors and doing that as much as we possibly could. He does a superb job of that in his work. We watched Zodiac a lot and Seven and Mindhunter, different things that we really love that Fincher has done—and diving into Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction.
SUZANNE: What’s interesting is we couldn’t—whenever we’re working on something, we just watch, watch, watch movies, and we were like, why couldn’t we find the perfect comp for this movie? And then we were like, “Oh, that’s a good thing.” So like Matt was saying, we just watched a bunch of different movies for a bunch of different elements that Hypnotic combines into one movie.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Hypnotic is now streaming on Netflix.