Unleashing the “Devil”: An Interview with Writer-Director Jason DeVan

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Jason DeVan is a new filmmaker who started his career in indie films as an actor and doing voiceover work in video games. Making the transition from actor to writer and director, he makes his directorial debut with the horror film Along Came the Devil, coming to select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on August 10 from Gravitas Ventures.

World Film Geek had the chance to talk to DeVan about the film.

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First of all Jason, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Along Came the Devil. I loved the film, it was definitely an Exorcist for the new generation.
Thank you so much! I appreciate hearing that.

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Linda Blair in The Exorcist, one of a few influences in Along Came the Devil (Warner Bros.)

Were you always a fan of horror films?
I have, yes. I’ve been a fan of horror films since I was a little kid. My favorite, I mean I remember watching The Exorcist in eighth grade for the first time. Instead of being afraid of it, I couldn’t wait to watch it again to see how they did things and to see the story again. I’ve always wanted to do an exorcism movie and not reinvent the wheel, but bring a new story.

I was fortunately enough to have a family tell me their story and I was able to mix truths with story elements from the exorcism genre.

That’s great! I know that The Exorcist inspired the film, but that’s quite a fascinating story to hear.
Yeah, I have a Brazilian family friend who had this amazing story and it all came together. I knew that it was what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do another Exorcist because I would never say, “Hey I’m doing the new Exorcist” especially because we didn’t have the budget (laughs). Besides, The Exorcist is a classic but I wanted to throw out hat in the exorcism arena, so to speak, but add some truths.

For instance, the daughters in the closet at the beginning of the film and the haunting things that happened between the sister and the mother and daughter. We had a family we were able to loosely base those characters on.

That’s exactly what I like because a lot of these exorcism films, they always have the same tropes and like other certain genres, it can get tiring after a while. However, this was actually a cut about some of those boring ones.
Thank you so much!

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Sydney Sweeney as the possessed Ashley in Along Came the Devil (Gravitas Ventures/DeVan Clan)

I felt Sydney Sweeney really proved herself to be the driving force of the film in the central role of Ashley. What was she like on the set?
She was great! She came in for the first read and right away, I knew there was something special there. We needed an actress who was going to be able to pull off the physicality of the role and the voice. You know, going from this innocent little girl to bring totally possessed by the Devil. From day, we knew there was something special and when she did her third callback, we did a chemistry read with Jessica Barth (who plays Aunt Tanya), we knew she was destined for stardom and you can see her now. I mean, she has a bright career ahead of her. She is steadily moving up the ladder of success.

You mentioned Jessica Barth and I agree, the chemistry between those two was so natural, it was as if they can be related.
(Laughs) That’s what we were hoping for. I’m a firm believer in chemistry. You know, there are these situations where not every actor wants to work with an up-and-coming director. People don’t know what it is like when you go into filmmaking, so it’s hard enough as it is. The good thing was that people were responding to the script very well and the next big thing was to say that it was not a big time actor coming into the movie. We wanted the chemistry of all the actors and I think we pulled it off.

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Bruce Davison (right) on set with Cassius DeVan on the set of Along Came the Devil.

It must have been great to work with Jessica, Matt Dallas, who I remember seeing in Kyle XY, and of course, Bruce Davison, who I say is a legend in his own right.
Absolutely! You couldn’t ask for better actors. Once they stepped on the set, they were just amazing and giving you what you asked for. They’re even better people off-set. They were just a pleasure to work with, all of them. Especially Bruce and Matt.

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Jason DeVan (center) on the set of Along Came the Devil.

Aside from the budget, what would you say would be the most difficult part of the shoot? I was surprised with Sydney’s physicality in the film as it looked mind-blowing and I had to question whether that really happened while making the film.
Yeah! We had set out to do everything as practical as we could. You know, bring that “old school” to the feeling. The visual effects came in after we had finished shooting. So the visual effects came in and they brought in another level. At one point, we were 100 percent practical effects and then the visual effects came in and added another layer so that demon in the corner and the demon on the bed, without giving too much away, that was actually happening on the set and then the visual effects came and spiced things up.

We had the real Devil on the set, standing on prosthetic spoons at eight feet tall. We had bones breaking out of skin that were actually arms when you see that type of stuff. Our stunt team helping Sydney climb up the wall at the church, which we barely achieved due to our budget. We were able to pull that off before adding the visual effects came in and added a little more element. Because of that, we had so much more that we weren’t able to add to this film of some of the things that I learned when I interviewed real priests who have been through exorcisms. I mean everything from vomiting spiders to where I mean these spiders were coming out of someone who the priest was trying to exorcise, who was an eight-year old girl.

These priests would question their own faith because they weren’t able to perform these exorcisms. That was something we used for this film, like the exorcisms don’t always work. It’s not like the typical Hollywood film where there is a happy ending or yeah, the demon got away. This is something that can force priests to question their own faith.

Finally, are there any new projects in the works?
Yeah there is. We are actually beginning work on our second film soon, called Broken Souls. We are up and running and excited to shoot it. It’s about a father who is going through a separation with his wife and he ends up kidnapping his son. And in the process, a serial killer kidnaps the son from him and so he has no one to turn to and we go on an amazing journey and we have an ending that will “blow your shoes off”!

I bet it will! That sounds like something I will definitely watch! Along Came the Devil comes to select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on August 10. If you are a fan of classics like The Exorcist and want something different than the norm, then this film must be seen, especially because of Sydney Sweeney’s driven performance. Thank you so much Jason for talking about the film.
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Jason DeVan for making this interview possible. You can follow Jason and his wife Heather, the writers of the film and owners of DeVan Clan, on Twitter.

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