Your new movie Don't
Let the Devil in - in a few words, what is it about?
Let the Devil in
is follows the story of newlyweds John and
Samantha Harris, who after suffering from a miscarriage decide to leave
New York City and relocate somewhere quiet to start over again. Their recent
marriage is already in turmoil, due to various reasons including John’s
alcoholism, PTSD from an unspoken event in his past and their age
difference. When John is relocated by the land development firm he works
for to oversee the contraction of a casino deep in the heart of
Appalachia, it seems like the perfect opportunity. However, once the
couple arrives in hopes of living a new, happy life together, things quickly
turn sinister and aggressive. Eventually, they find themselves wrapped in
a nightmarish tapestry of evil that resides in the underbelly of small
town America! Basically a hell-scape in Appalachia!
what extent could you actually relate to small town life as presented in
Let the Devil in, and is any of this (apart from the Satanic cult
I hope) based on personal experiences?
I did in fact grow
up in a very small town, though not in Appalachia, so I am extremely well
acquainted with small town life. The gossip, the small time drama, the
territorial personalities and of course, the, how shall we say, inept police
departments. The theme of a Satanic cult arrived after I found
myself in a bit of trouble, a few summers back, where I was hiding away
from New York City for a bit back in my hometown. I began to realize a lot
of strange occurrences taking place that would be rather odd to be simply
coincidences. I certainly could feel the town, even though I grew up
there, look at me with strange eyes - like “who is this stranger?”
kind of thing. And I’d hear rumors and gossip down at the bars and post
office about everybody and the whole idea of always being surveilled and
monitored by a small community both fascinated and scared the shit out of
me. I began using the term “beware of small town illuminati” and
eventually, the story came from those paranoid feelings. I felt it may be
fitting to have the story center around a Satanic cult simply because I
also find that entire topic fascinating. There is a lot of cult activity
near my hometown - in the Freetown State Forest, in Massachusetts. A lot
of bodies have been found mutilated, a lot of satanic worship and
paranormal activity. This was inspiring to me in a weird way. To think
that maybe whoever committed those murders during a ceremony was living
right next door! I rushed back to New York City, crashed on my friend
V.P.’s sofa in the West Village and wrote the screenplay in three days.
Other sources of
inspiration when writing Don't
Let the Devil in?
Certainly giallo films were
a huge inspiration. Also films like Morbo and All the Colors of the
Dark, to name a few, were of much interest to me as I love slow, heavy
builds that don’t erupt in total chaos. At least with films like this.
Don’t get me wrong - I fucking love gore and chaos most of the time! Race with the Devil and scenes from
Duel had a big influence
on me. I am also extremely interested in the occult, the paranormal and
Crowley of course. Learning as much as possible about Bohemian Grove
certainly helped - and also terrified me. Also - I was fortunate
enough to meet Eli Roth during my writing stages and that was a huge and
inspiring moment in my life.
Let the Devil in is at times rather associative when it comes to
storytelling and does leave certain parts of the narrative to the
imagination - do you at all want to elaborate on this?
Absolutely! Some people will find it annoying perhaps, but you must
remember, my background is primarily in experimental filmmaking.
Editing is my favorite part of the entire production - and I love
telling stories in an abstract fashion. Now, unlike many of my early
experimental works which are very Brakhage-esque, Don't
Let the Devil in
is a lot more narrative - yet it was pieced together in a
dreamlike fashion for a number of reasons:
One, to keep it interesting
and invoke feelings of frustration to the audience. I really want them
to dislike Marc’s character very very very much - so tip-toeing
around instead of just hitting it over the head, give a feeling of
aggravation - where you just wanna jump through the screen and slap
some sense into him. So it was a structural purpose.
Two, our budget
was limited - as Marc and I self-financed the entire film, with some
extra amazing help from V.P. Walling and Jac Currie. I don’t believe
in crowd sourcing most of the time - so just figured we should do it
ourselves, like I’ve always done. That said, we didn’t have the
money for effects, gore and the rest. However, I very much enjoy
leaving things to people's imagination. Who knows, whatever idea an
audience member may have about what went on in the castle at the end,
would most likely be more disturbing than what I could show on a
limited budget without it looking tacky.
was both fun and aggravating at times as, being a gore-hound, would
love to go all Tom Savini on the film, but I also knew it wouldn’t
have been the smart decision. Plus, I very much long suspense and
films that never show the “monster” per se. While in post production, I saw
Baskin for the first time and I must say,
well, the next one may need its fair share of bloodshed!
can you tell us about Don't
Let the Devil in's approach to horror?
would like to think of it as coming toward the genre gently but with
enough power to sustain. It’s tough though because in the modern
horror genre, there are certain elements you must hit in order for it
to fall into place. With Don't
Let the Devil in, my blueprint were films like Dellamorte Dellamore and
Morbo, so not to say outdated,
but under-appreciated work spoke more to me. That is going to be a
very hard sell to the modern horror market - however, I’d like to
believe it is a very “old fashion” approach to making a reasonable
feature. This was my first budgeted feature and largest production to
date, so I certainly drove myself to points of insanity trying to make
it work with what I had.
I was a kid, I used to love hearing my family tell ghosts stories and
such. Usually it was after dinner at the kitchen table and when I was
listening, I’d stare down the dark hallway and imagine what was in
the darkness. It would terrify me, but I’d always do it. Even
mirrors, which I am still to this day frightened of at night, I’d
stare at my reflection in the darkness and scare myself from nothing.
I guess that’s the closest manner I could explain how I hoped the
film would feel. You might not see something, but it’s there
about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand for a bit!
seeing as it was my first “real” feature, I was certainly feeling
overwhelmed. The thing is, I knew exactly what I wanted - the images I saw
in my head, so trying to convey those thoughts to our cinematographer and
such was difficult as I am very particular about what I wanted. What filmmaker isn’t? Some ideas of mine may be unconventional, but it’s
what I wanted first and foremost. With a background in documentaries, I
rarely “direct”, so this was new to me. However, I composed the entire
48 track score during the writing stages, so I could always refer back to
the music to remember the mood I was hoping to achieve with the scene. By
the end, I felt a bit more comfortable. Our last shoot on location in
Appalachia was a bar scene, where Marc is being threatened and eventually
set up by a woman. We had an open bar, as no one in the scene were actors,
but actually sitting in that bar when we came in to set up - so we asked
them to stay, I drank a fifth of whiskey with them and we began rolling -
a lot of ad-libbing and experiments with the performances and such. That
was one of my best moments on set. Just allowing life to roll on in front
of the camera when they felt the most comfortable with all of our
equipment, lights and sound stuff all over the place in their tiny bar. It
Let the Devil in features Ed Wood [Ed
Wood bio - click here] regular Conrad Brooks in a supporting role
- so what was it like working with him and how did you get him even?
is an amazing man. A gentleman and extremely inspiring. While in the
middle of principle photography, Marc (main actor and co-producer) was
asked by a local theater if he’d be interested in hosting an event
in honor of Conrad’s career. Conrad lives in Appalachia you see. So
he did and we got to meet Conrad. We all hit it off instantly. Conrad
has this way about him where he instantly feels like your father or grandfather with his stories, wisdom and loving soul. After that
event, we came back to our hotel room suite which was also our
production office and I penned in Conrad’s scene without letting him
know. The next day, we made a call to him, let him know we wanted him
in it and when he agreed, drove out to his home and filmed it. That
scene, interestingly enough, was not in the original screenplay,
however I believe it is the pinnacle moment in Marc’s character,
where we see the evil beginning to take hold of John Harris. Without
Conrad’s scene, I can assure you that the film would be very weak.
Funny how things like that happen.
we filmed the sequence, Conrad invited us to have dinner with him and
he shared stories about hanging with Lugosi [Bela
Lugosi bio - click here], Ed Wood, Leo Gorcey, Sam
Raimi, Johnny Depp and everyone else in between. Needless to say, I
basically had to be dragged away kicking and screaming cause I wanted
to stay and hear more and more. Conrad is very proud of that scene as
it also stars his daughter (who answers the door) and his late wife
Ruth (who is in bed). It even has his cat too!
can you tell us about the rest of Don't
Let the Devil in's key cast, and why exactly these people?
Slanger has been a close friend and collaborator for a while now. We made a lot of
short films together and fake giallo trailers. We made a short
called House on the Edge of Hell which was the precursor to Don't
Let the Devil in on a flip cam for 27 bucks. Jordan Lewis, who
plays Samantha, has been a friend of mine for a long long time, as we used
to work at the same restaurants in New York City when I was a chef, so we
have a very long history of partying and going insane together. We were
two weeks away from principle photography and we didn’t have anybody for
Samantha yet. I heard she wanted to get into acting, so I called her up
and cast her then and there. Mostly everybody in the film were close
friends, family members or locals from the town. My childhood best friend
Andrew gets a snippet cameo unveiling himself from a cloak during the last
scene which I shot and edited in the film LONG after it was completed
cause I just thought it would be cool to have him in the film no matter
what. Kind of a Sam Raimi/Renaissance Pictures type of thing.
of course also have to talk about your locations for a bit, and what was
it like filming there?
in the winter. Fucking cold to put it bluntly. I love Frostburg, where
we filmed - western Maryland, where Marc actually grew up. I wrote the
screenplay with all locations in mind. However, when we lost Jordan to
another project mid-way through, we had to take a break and do pick
ups in my hometown - which is where the church scenes and general
store scenes were shot. In Frostburg, we all holed up in a very
historic hotel and soon, the entire town knew we were there.
anecdote: One morning at breakfast at the local diner, Marc and I were
discussing the scenes for the day and I was stared at by everyone in
the diner in the most menacing way. It was extremely intense. On that
same day, we shot Marc in the restaurant being stared at! It was my
own taste of what I wrote my characters to feel. I guess I just looked
a lot different than most people there who they knew. I also was
extremely hungover, so probably looked like I was going to die.
A few words about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Tense. Very, very tense.
Really only lighthearted when we called wrap for the day or night and
found ourselves at the local bars. Jordan and I, though we are extremely
close and dear friends, would go at it A LOT. I think it had to do
something with me being a first time director and her being a first time actress, so we didn’t really know how to meet in the middle. But it is
what it is and after the screaming and yelling and tantrums ended, we were
back to normal, laughing and joking. She’s very familiar with my
tantrums as she’s known me throughout my chef career, so it really
wasn’t anything too new or frightening. Probably just more of a
spectacle than anything. Ha!
The $64-question of
course, where can your movie be seen?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The film is going to
be widely released very, very soon - it is in the process of getting
prepared for release (though I can’t yet discuss the details as we are
still working out the papers with the distribution company). However, on a
really cool side note - the awesome label Weird Life Films LTR will be
releasing super amazing director’s cut, limited edition VHS copies of Don't
Let the Devil in which will be due out mid to late summer
which will also include a lot of surprises within! In the meantime, just
hold on, cause we have a lot about to happen!
Anything you can
tell us about critical and audience reception of Don't
Let the Devil in yet?
So far it’s received pretty
favorable responses which obviously makes me super happy. This was a
passion project and a film of extremely ambitious ideas, so I’m thrilled
that audiences enjoy it. I’ve seen it a few times during theatrical
premieres with the audience and it’s always gone over great. I
understand it’s not for everyone, but I’m overall just happy I made
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
Heading over to Europe in a few months to
complete my newest screenplay. Other than that, I’ll probably have some
new short films, whether they be documentary or experimental, out all
throughout the summer. I’m constantly creating, so I guess just check
Your/your movie's website, Facebook,
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
Beware of Small Town
Thanks for the