I caught up with director Jason DeVan for a chat on film-making, horror, the art of the ending, and his research into exorcism (from a few different perspectives) for his new horror piece Along Came the Devil out On Demand now and starring Madison Lintz, Sydney Sweeney, and Jessica Barth.

Along Came the Devil is quite the rarity in exorcism films because of its ending which – when properly examined – is actually something that could've been written in a piece of weird fiction. It will make you ask the question: are the forces governing the universe benevolent and logical? – what the exorcist, played by Bruce Davison, must believe out of necessity, although his faith is certainly tested beyond most means we've ever seen in this genre.

Or – rather – is the universe fundamentally governed by insane, sadistic, and fully chaotic forces? Something that the tone of could've been ripped out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel? Is the general tenor of the film's world one of the Christian idea of God ("God is love") or one closer to the psychosis of a Cthulhu?

Along Came the Devil also allies itself more closely in cinematic tone to films like The Amityville Horror or The Conjuring 2 – it does not rely on an over-abundance of jump scares and blood. It relies on the psychology of trauma (and based on a true story material) to develop its characters. While it wears its debt to The Exorcist on its sleeve, it is something way different and revelatory to watch.

Getting into Along Came the Devil, I’m curious what was it besides The Exorcist that initially inspired you? The film does give several tips of the hat to Friedkin's picture.

[Laughs] well of course being a huge of the original Exorcist – I am a huge fan of a lot of the old-time horror films, and also a lot of the good ones done today like The Conjuring...

I love that film. Very effective, very unexpected horror – exemplified best, I think, in the basement scene with the "hide and clap" and the match. More of the psychological-type horror and less reliance on blood and jump scares – although they do certainly have those too, they're less rapid fire, more intelligently paced, like in Along Came the Devil.

THE CONJURING "Hide and Clap" scene. Courtesy of Fandango on YouTube.

Yeah. Insidious and Sinister – the ones that a lot of horror fans love.

So we set out to do this exorcism film – we had a true story of a close Brazilian family, friends of our family. We wanted to tell a lot of the truth in the elements but also a lot of the truth... to make it relevant to horror fans today, to keep it relevant in today's world.

Which can be a tough thing to do when tackling exorcism as a subject.

Yeah, I felt like we kind of set out to tell that true story while also adding those elements of scares, because a lot of the time in today's world, you don't see a lot of exorcism movies that psychologically scare you, but a lot of the times, they also don't have that jump scare element in there too – which is something a lot of the younger fans come to expect.

So, we set out to kind of accomplish all of those.

I think you did well on hitting a good balance there.

[Laughs] Thank you.

Jessica Barth as Tanya the supernatural horror film “ALONG CAME THE DEVIL” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

That also kind of gets into another question I have. What was the research like for the film?

I'm sure you examined the commonalities in the psychology of individuals and groups who trust, seek out, and to some degree rely on exorcism as a mode of healing. What did you learn from that angle and how did you apply it to the relevant characters?

A lot of the interviewing process that I did in telling this story involved interviewing the daughters of the family, the mother of the family, along with some priests and a bishop for the story.

So we used some bits of these true stories to help tell our story, because that's where I feel the fans can relate to these elements which are true parts of the story being told. They can also see right through something that doesn't have that realness there.

Absolutely.

So, telling this family's story – even the way we start the film off, with the little girls in the closet with an abusive father – we just hacked into that without giving some of the abusiveness away.

The film really did do that. Used subtlety to its advantage – letting the audience fill in the mental blanks on the actual brutality of what's happening.

...having those elements to put on screen helped tell this exorcism story.

Also like the priests who told us different aspects of exorcisms they performed – when they worked, when they didn't work, had them questioning their own faith.

I bet.

Yeah. Because it doesn't work all of the time.

You know, I'm standing in a room alone with the bishop and he's telling me these stories of a young girl vomiting live spiders.

Wow.

As a film-maker you kind of disbelieve things. You say, well maybe she ate a spider's nest or maybe she ate a bunch of real spiders and she couldn't keep them down, so she vomited them up. And having a priest tell you – in this case the bishop – that no, that's not the case at all – she was vomiting profusely live spiders. They were crawling out alive.

This had him questioning his own faith. Or a little girl – the same little girl – Brazilian but speaking in an English man's accent – with a man's voice.

Wow. Yeah.

Yeah. It kinda gives you chills.

Heather DeVan as Sarah in the supernatural horror film “ALONG CAME THE DEVIL” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

Fascinating. I've never heard of something like an accent switch in real cases but you often hear of like the person speaking a language they couldn't possibly know like Aramaic or perfect Latin. Very interesting.

Yeah.

I found it very interesting that you tackled the subject matter from a Mormon or LDS point of view (something scholars have called a "unstudied phenomenon") when usually the exorcism movie takes the Roman Catholic POV or the very decentralized Protestant Church POV.

One of the things wet set out to do when we made this film was to have a non-denominational feel to it – where you didn't know exactly what religion, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist. We wanted to let all religions kind of feel a part of it.

Definitely. Increases its relevancy to the audience.

When I added the Mormon scene – that's kind of a true belief with the Mormons – I wanted to add that in there and I actually got that idea from a good friend of mine who's Mormon.

We were talking and kind of going over the process, and I loved how she was explaining to me how the Mormons believe, so I put it right into the script – put it right into the line.

There ya go.

Along Came the Devil had one hell (no pun intended) of a twist at the end too. One that I'm confident audiences haven't seen and oh so visceral. I felt at the end that we really didn't know whether the universe was fundamentally ordered and governed more or less by the loving, Christian idea of God – or whether this is a fundamentally Lovecraftian or weird fiction tale where the universe is chaotic and governed by fundamentally insane forces that use humanity as their playthings.

[L-R] Jessica Barth as Tanya and Sydney Sweeney as Ashley in the supernatural horror film “ALONG CAME THE DEVIL” a Gravitas Ventures release. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

I think movies that lay that kind of ambiguity are some of the best – recognizing the audience is intelligent enough to decide that for themselves and in essence indulge in a bit of masochism in enjoying the suspense of waiting for an answer. Which leads to the question, what do you hope audiences will take from your movie?

That's a good question.

It's a big one too because of that twist too I think.

I'm hoping that when we did this we did it exactly right. We wanted to give the audiences an exorcism movie that left them wanting more and that was something different from any other exorcism movie.

At the end, we wanted to have something that really separated us from the rest. Although, we didn't reinvent the wheel here – we wanted to make a good exorcism movie that exorcism fans appreciated without totally going off the beaten path.

I'd say you did. I just find that metaphysical question the ending posed rather fascinating.

At the same time, we had so many haunting notes – like what I was saying with the spiders – we had so many things we wanted to put into this movie that we weren't able to – much more of the story to tell, that I would love to definitely do a sequel...

A question I was going to ask you. [Laughs]

...and tell more because we have just so many haunting visuals and notes to tell that the audience would love. We thought – without giving away our ending, saying too much about our ending – we wanted to pay homage to that urban legend of what the Roman Catholic Church does with its most possessed.

Absolutely.

That was the way I wanted to end it but it also left it open.

Getting to our last question, what is next for you?

Our next project is called Broken Souls. We're in pre-production and its been doing great. It's a psychological thriller that I wrote – I actually co-write a lot of my stuff with my wife, Heather DeVan who's an amazing writer and one of our producing partners Dylan Matlock who's a great writer as well. So, we come up with the stories, and then write them out, and we write together and bounce the ideas.

This story is a psychological thriller about a father who kidnaps his son from his mother as they're going through a separation process.

After he kidnaps his son, a serial killer kidnaps his son from him.

Wow.

Everybody thinks he did it and he goes on this amazing rollercoaster ride to get his son back. The ending will be something to see: I'm all about the endings of my films.

I want them to blow you away.