Out now in theaters and on VOD platforms this Friday is director/co-writer Jason DeVan’s Along Came the Devil, which follows a troubled teen (Sydney Sweeney) who is sent to live at her estranged aunt's home, where she is haunted by visions of her late mother, which causes the young woman to start dabbling within a realm she cannot possibly control.
To celebrate the film’s recent release courtesy of Gravitas Ventures, DeVan recently participated in a Q&A with Daily Dead, in which he discussed his filmmaking experiences and the inspiration behind Along Came the Devil.
What inspired the idea behind Along Came the Devil?
Jason DeVan: I have always been a huge fan of the original The Exorcist. I really wanted to do a movie in the same vein of that story. So, when close friends of ours gave me the opportunity to tell some of their stories, we jumped at the chance and combined them with the element of my storytelling. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, I just wanted to make a good exorcism movie for a new generation.
What was the writing process like with Dylan [Matlock] and Heather [DeVan] for this script? How was the collaborative process like as you were delving into creating this world and these characters together?
Jason DeVan: Well, originally I woke up at 3:00 a.m., and then I woke up my wife, Heather, and told her we were going to do a film called Tell Me Your Name, which is now called Along Came the Devil. After a long interviewing process with the family I mentioned above, and a high-profile priest, we were ready to tell the story. Heather and I wrote the treatment together first. Then Heather, Dylan, and I set out to write the screenplay. I would stand up and act out each scene and the way I wanted to shoot it, and then the three of us would take turns writing it out.
Possession/demonic stories feel like the perfect vehicle when you’re tapping into more personal themes in horror. Was that conscientious to you as you were working on this project?
Jason DeVan: Absolutely. Growing up in a strong religious family and then shooting an exorcism movie is not the easiest thing to do. Things start creeping up into your subconscious, and even creepier shit starts happening in your home, and that can play with your psyche. Boy, do I have some stories I could tell you.
Working on the independent level of filmmaking comes with its own unique set of challenges, but I also think it can offer up some unique opportunities for filmmakers as well. Was that something you experienced while in production on Along Came the Devil?
Jason DeVan: Being on an indie budget, you are not always able to get what you want from the script onto the screen, but you are able to tell the story your way because you don't necessarily have a studio breathing down your neck. Everyone involved has much more of a voice on indie films throughout the entire process, which can be challenging, but also very rewarding.
Can you discuss the casting process for the film, and with Sydney, what was it that you saw in her where you knew she was going to be the perfect cornerstone to anchor this movie?
Jason DeVan: We didn’t necessarily want names as much as we wanted chemistry with our cast. Sydney came into the room full of energy. By the time she did her chemistry read with Jessica Barth, we knew we had something special between the two of them. We had no doubt that Sydney would be able to pull of the transition of a sweet, innocent young girl, to a fully possessed demon. It’s really cool because when we hired Sydney, we knew it wouldn't take long for people to recognize how good of an actress she is. Sydney really dedicates herself to each character that she plays.
What was your biggest takeaway from your experiences on Along Came the Devil—whether it’s something that affected you personally, professionally, or even both?
Jason DeVan: To enjoy the journey while making the film. You have to follow your heart as a filmmaker and trust your gut. Try not to get discouraged, because you will hear a lot of "no’s" in the filmmaking process, but it only takes one "yes" to make it happen.