Sundance Premiere of ‘Presence’: A Horror Flick That Prompts Walkouts

Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest horror creation, “Presence,” premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, leaving a lasting impression on audiences, albeit not always in a positive way. The psychological thriller, known for its intense atmosphere, led to some attendees walking out of the screening early. According to reports, one individual expressed, “I cannot take this stress so late at night,” highlighting the impact of the film’s suspense.

Even the cast, including star Lucy Liu, seemed affected, with Liu sharing her emotional response to the movie, stating, “I’m just devastated. My body is having reactions as if I wasn’t in the movie.” The unsettling experience left an indelible mark on both viewers and those involved in the film’s production.

The storyline of “Presence” revolves around the Payne family – a mother, father, and their two children – each grappling with personal challenges. Upon moving into a new house, the family discovers they are not alone, setting the stage for a gripping narrative. Starring Lucy Liu, Julia Fox, and Chris Sullivan, the film stands out with its unique perspective. Unlike traditional haunted house films, “Presence” adopts the viewpoint of the entity haunting the home, employing unusual angles and allowing audiences to observe the family as if watched by the ghost.

Despite its unsettling nature, the film has garnered critical acclaim, boasting a 100 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Soderbergh, reflecting on the distinctive choice of perspective in “Presence,” acknowledged the challenges associated with such a narrative approach. He discussed his skepticism about the effectiveness of one-person point-of-view virtual reality, emphasizing the importance of showcasing the protagonist’s emotions from different angles for a more engaging experience.

While “Presence” makes waves at Sundance, Soderbergh has opted not to revisit his past successes. Despite being approached to continue the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, he declined the offer, expressing that the series had concluded for him after the third movie. Soderbergh emphasized his pursuit of new creative endeavors, stating, “I’m chasing something else” and signaling his commitment to exploring fresh storytelling avenues beyond established franchises.