Triple threat actor/writer/director Jason DeVan has been part of the entertainment industry for the past 20 years. Co-Founder and CEO of DeVan Clan Productions. Jason was a theatre major at Penn State University where he walked on and made the Nittany LionsFootball team. From there he moved to Los Angeles, where he began his career as an actor in everything from commercials to the popular psychological horror video games, Dead Space 2 and 3. He takes pride in being the first human movie logo for Alcon Entertainment. DeVan’s experience as an actor in the industry gives him invaluable insight working with actors as a director.
DeVan produced, co-wrote and directed the new movie, Along Came the Devil. A story of demonic possession, Ashley (Sydney Sweeney, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) is sent to live with her estranged Aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth, Ted 2). She begins to have visions of her deceased mom, driving her to attempt contact with the spirit world. Ashley unknowingly unearths a demonic force, which leaves her loved ones fighting for her soul. The film also stars Matt Dallas (Painted Woman), Bruce Davison (Insidious: The Last Key), Madison Lintz (Amazon Prime Video’s Bosch), and Heather DeVan. According to the opening credits, the story is based on true events. DeVan explains how the story came to him:
“We have some very close family friends, a Brazilian family, and they had an amazing story involving the mother and the daughter. In interviewing the family and getting some of their story, we were able to take a lot of their story and integrate it in the story we wanted to tell, the exorcism side, while keeping this family satisfied when they saw the film. We kept some of the strong points of what their family went through, and some of those truths start the movie right off the bat: With the little girl in the closet, and how the father used to make them sleep in the closet, and how abusive he was. We just had to use a little bit of the story, but it definitely is based on this family’s story and their amazing journey.”
The stories they tell you will put chills on your body
Does DeVan believe in demonic possession himself?
“I do believe in possession, but on the other side you don’t know how psychological sometimes things can be. But I can tell you that after interviewing several priests and bishops, and some of the things they’ve told me, and these people are men of the cloth, very religious, the stories they will tell you will literally put chills on your body. Anywhere from exorcism things that they’ve seen happen, from bones breaking in front of them, to one of the things that always sticks with me… One of the bishops had performed on a little girl that I had interviewed. She was 8 years old, speaking in an English man’s accent and vomiting live spiders that were crawling out all over. I tried to question it – said that maybe she ate a spider’s nest and the eggs hatched and they were crawling out of her. [The bishop] said when you see something like this happen in front of you when you are trying to perform an exorcism and it isn’t working, it shakes your belief to the core. It has you questioning everything you believe to be true. And that’s kind of what we tried to base Bruce (Davison)’s character on, to try to tell that side of the story.”
In demonic possession movies, Catholics are usually the heroes. Along Came the Devil doesn’t specify what denomination the pastors belong to. Is there a reason for that?
“We wanted to be very non-denominational. That way we could not specifically pinpoint any exact religion. In one scene we even brought in the Mormon religion… That’s something we wanted to do. We wanted to leave you questioning exactly what religion it was, while at the same time letting you draw your own conclusion.”
THE EXORCIST casts a long shadow
How long a shadow does The Exorcist cast when you’re doing this type of subject matter? There is even dialogue in Along Came the Devil that specifically refers to The Exorcist.
“Obviously, I’m a huge fan of the original Exorcist. I’ve always wanted to do an exorcism movie… We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel here, we wanted to stay true to the exorcism formula, which is what I think a lot of exorcism fans enjoy. We had a good story to tell about this family the best way we could, which fit into the budget as best we could, And that’s what we set out to do, which is just kind of just tell our story and make it relevant to horror fans and teenagers today. That’s why there’s that feel for the teenagers in the story and young Ashley.”
Unlike The Exorcist, Along Came the Devil shows the demon possessing the movie’s heroine. How was that decision made?
“We wanted to show the devil because in one of the interviews with the family, the mother said that She would wake up from her sleep And the demon would be outside of her window in Brazil looking in at her while she was sleeping. She would describe it as having an out of body experience, watching herself on the bed while the demon was watching her.”
DeVan is enthusiastic when I point out that the church in the movie isn’t especially beautiful, bright or cheerful, and isn’t especially comforting-looking. Was that a matter of design, or a question of available locations?
“Oh, great question! It’s a little bit of both. We were interviewing several churches, and had found several, and a lot of them, after reading the script, said no, and others asked me if they could change the script and make it more of a Christian film, have a lighter rating. We didn’t want to go with that. So we ended up finding an abandoned, old church that had been changed into an Irish whiskey bar. As soon as I saw it, I knew that’s where we wanted to shoot, and I felt like that was the home for us to film in. Because it was exactly like what you just said, because of the stained windows, and the element of it being a small church, but it’s not exactly a chipper place to be, a place that shows faith. It has more of an ominous feel to it.”
Does good always win?
When you do a story about demonic possession, it seems that if you acknowledge the existence of the devil, you also have to acknowledge the existence of God. But is this necessarily true? In Along Came the Devil, the premise that good is stronger than evil is not necessarily a given.
“With our budget, we were not able to get a lot of what we wanted in the film. We’d love to do a sequel. Good doesn’t always win. That doesn’t mean they’ve stopped fighting for that individual. But we wanted to show that element – that it isn’t always what it seems to be. It’s going to be an ongoing battle here.”
Along Came the Devil opens in theaters and VOD and Digital HD on Friday, August 10, 2018.