“I just had an idea about a computer that was controlling a human, puppeteering them but the human was still in there and was involuntarily having to do these things,” shared Upgrade‘s writer and director Leigh Whannell during his stop at the Deadline Studio at SXSW.
Ahead of its June 1 theatrical release, the Blumhouse thriller screened at the annual Austin-based confab.
The film follows Grey Trace, a technophobe in a utopian near-future when computers control nearly everything – from cars to crime-surveillance – is paralyzed in a freak mugging that leaves his wife dead. But when a billionaire technologist offers him an experimental paralysis cure – an implanted computer chip called STEM – Grey finds that the chip has a voice and a mind of its own. Together Grey and STEM embark on a mission to avenge his wife’s death.
Joined by the film’s stars, Logan Marshall-Green and Betty Gabriel, Whannell continued on the origins of the story.
“It took a while to develop the story and each beat of the story to get it where it was but as I was doing that I was reading a lot about the singularity and the fact that computers being a part of our bodies is right around the corner. So it’s started becoming more and more interesting to me and I started becoming more obsessed with it.”
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As a veteran horror filmmaker, Whannell, who credits include the Saw and Insidiousfilm franchises, expressed his optimism about the future of the horror genre, following Jordan Peele’s critical and commercial success with Get Out, which nabbed the Oscar for best original screenplay.
“Somewhere in the 80s during the home video era something happened and horror started getting more and more marginalized and thought of as schlock. So it’s awesome that it’s back in the eyes of critics and Academy voters. I hope that continues. I hope that whatever dam was built this has broken thanks to Get Out and films like that.”