When The Devil Inside arrived, it shocked by landing in the first place position at the weekend’s box office, setting a record in the process. No one was more surprised than William Brent Bell (director, co-writer and editor) and Matthew Peterman (producer and co-writer). The creative duo, along with the film’s star, Fernanda Andrade, phoned Movie Fanatic for an exclusive interview about their sudden success and the origins of the horror hit.
"It’s pretty amazing that so many people want to talk about the movie and are passionate about it in different ways. I don’t know if it’s something we expected, but it’s certainly cool to be able to be part of the zeitgeist and become water cooler conversation, that kind of thing,” Bell said.
“It’s sparking a discussion, a debate and people are talking about the movie. That is the coolest thing,” Peterman added.
Andrade cannot believe this journey she’s been on since the film shot in Romania. The cast and crew didn’t even know if The Devil Inside would ever be seen. “It’s been amazing. It’s been incredible. I think we could only have dreamed of it that it would be bought,” Andrade said. “But, that it made it into theaters is a huge victory for us, let alone what it did last weekend in theaters. So, we are all over the moon.”
The Devil Inside is a found-footage, faux-documentary film with the feel of another horror hit, Paranormal Activity. It proved a challenge for the actress in that it was unlike anything she has ever experienced as a performer. "It was really different in the sense that the camera was always following you -- there was no time to stop and reset. It was a continuous form of it,” Andrade said.
“In that way, it was really a gift for all the actors involved because we got to constantly live and breathe this story. We never knew where the camera was going to land. I mean, we did a little, but it wasn’t in the usual way that we were used to working.”
Andrade was taken by the film’s exploration of exorcism and how Bell and Peterman took a different take on the genre than the actress had ever seen onscreen.
“Brent gave us books and I did as much research as I could -- considering I literally flew out to film it a week after I got the part,” she said and laughed. “One book specifically really resonated with me, Interview with an Exorcist. It gave me wonderful insight into the whole concept of demons, angels, the divine and man -- all that entire thing -- how the system works, the machinery of exorcism. It was something I had never read in such an accessible form. It was usually in such a religious or academic form, but it was never as practical as it came across in that book, from the people that do these exorcisms. It was really enlightening. It forced me to look at it from an entirely different angle.”
Filmmakers Bell and Peterman had always seen their film being shot in a found-footage, faux-documentary manner. When working with a tight budget, that mode of filmmaking proved a perfect fit.
“Hollywood was becoming more difficult to get movies made. The writer’s guild strike happened, and it was around the time the economy tanked. A friend of ours said, 'I love this project, why don’t we make it off the grid, outside of the studio system?' He raised $800,000, which is not a lot of money to make a film,” Bell said. “So, we decided that we would make it as a documentary-style film.”
By making it in this style, they found they further brought out the heart of their characters. “We further fell in love with the characters in the story that we could never have imagined doing it the traditional way,” Bell said.
When it came to casting, Bell and Peterman thought it necessary to have unknowns portray the characters -- not only because of the budget, but because of the ability to take an audience on the journey that would feel more real.
“With the level of authenticity we wanted to achieve, we wanted people who were watching the movie, even for a second, to believe that what they were seeing might actually be real,” Peterman said. “In order to achieve that, we couldn’t have recognizable faces. It’s funny, when the movie started going, Paranormal Activity hadn’t come out. It arrived about a week before we left to go shoot this. We, at first, wondered what it would do to our film. But, we put our heads down and kept going. Then… Paranormal blew up. It was funny -- agencies started calling us wanting to pitch their more recognizable actors in the movie [laughs]. They knew we were leaving to shoot the movie. Because Paranormal had done so well, it was a hot topic. In a very opposite Hollywood scenario, we were turning down people with cache in favor of people that no one had ever heard of. People were even offering to do the movie for free. It would have made it completely wrong.”
When it came to their lead, the moment they met Andrade, they had their Isabella. “She has a very natural look about her. She is very capable and relatable. We met her and she is so inquisitive, and that is what we want from Isabella,” Peterman said. “She’s supposed to want to find answers and have that kind of enthusiasm about the mystery. She’s perfect.”
When asked about her director, Andrade’s thoughts led us to believe The Devil Inside set was a love fest. “It was a dream to work with Brent and Matthew. He had such a specific idea, yet allowed so much freedom and trusted us with these characters,” Andrade said. “At the same time he was able to get exactly what he needed.”
Andrade realized that The Devil Inside was striking a chord when the trailer debuted (above) that showed, in grainy black and white, the reaction of the audience as they jumped out of their seats during a showing. “When you read something, you have an idea of what it’s going to be,” Andrade said. “I was surprised with everything when it came to this movie. All of the elements that I really fell for when I read the script were still very present in the movie. That’s what makes it really special."
Now that they have a number one movie under their belt, of course everyone wants to know what’s next for Peterman and Bell.
“There’s a couple new projects that have been announced -- one is at Warner Bros and another one that will probably be the one we do immediately,” Bell said. Mirroring the mystery of their first film, the subject of their next flick is under wraps. “We can’t talk about the subject matter. But, I can tell you that it is going to be shot in France. It’s a modern-day exploration of a traditional horror mythology that we all know and love, but done in a way that’s never been done before.”