In THE CLEANSING HOUR, Max and Drew run a popular webcast that streams “live exorcisms” watched by millions across the globe. In reality, the exorcisms are just elaborately staged hoaxes performed by paid actors. But their fortunes take a turn when one of the actors becomes possessed by an actual demon and takes the crew hostage. In front of a rapidly growing audience, the demon subjects the crew to a series of violent challenges, threatening to expose the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other unless they come clean and reveal they’re impostors before the show is over.
Damien- Thanks for chatting today.
HNN- Hi Damien, I’m glad I get to talk to you. I have a million questions but obviously I can’t ask you all of them. I was kind of waiting for this to happen.
Damien- The movie or the results of the movie?
HNN-The movie itself and the social media exorcisms. I think it was kind of crazy because of everything that has happened but seeing this you think, will people be doing all of this stuff like, via zoom. How did this idea manifest for you?
Damien- I have a background in reality T.V. and I was a production editor. There is a fascination with the power of editing and the way you can sort of trick someone into thinking something is more believable or realistic if you’ve got a grainy, shaky cell phone video. I sort of combined that with my love of editing, reality tv, horror films, and The Exorcist which I loved my whole life. Obviously, there is the social media component and the influencer component which is ubiquitous today. Everybody knows somebody who is an influencer so to speak and they are defined by the blue check mark. A lot of these people are kind of terrible people in the way they are so self-involved. That is how the Max character came about. He’s so about himself. It was sort of taking all these things that are current and combining them.
HNN-Did you have to do a lot of research because there are so many accurate details in the movie?
Damien- Yes, there is a lot of research that went into this. There’s a lot of research that goes into anything that I write. The demon names and traits were so vital. I think in Ghostbusters they make up their own demon names which I think is awesome. I totally would have done that too but I wanted to make it believable.
HNN-I love the cast and Kyle Gallner just disappears into every role he plays. Alix and Ryan were great. How did everyone prepare and what was it like working with everyone?
Damien- I’m lucky because I got to work with such great actors. As a director, you just never know how an actor is going to be until you start working with them. Kyle and Ryan showed up and did their thing. They just made my job so much easier. They got the story, they got the characters and understood everything. Now with Alix, I rehearsed with her more than I did with anybody else because Alix is playing two roles. We had to differentiate when Lane is in control and then Demon is in control. How do those manifest physically when she’s just there chained to a chair? She was so terrific, she showed up and just did it.
HNN-I felt bad for Alix. She really went through a lot. The effects are incredible. How did you guys decide what the demon would look like?
Damien- I took a lot of care with that. I didn’t want it to be too over the top. I wanted to make sure that the appliances we put on her face were subtle so that her face is gradually changing over the course of the movie and she doesn’t look silly in some way. The make-up had that philosophy behind it. The idea I had was the demon inside her is pushing its way out through her face.
HNN-What do you want to say to the people that will be watching this movie? The Exorcist is one of the best films ever made. I do know that sometimes demon/demonology and stuff sometimes bother people. Do you think it sort of freaks people out more when its sort like The Exorcist or this movie because of the subject?
Damien- I would say the demonic, exorcism, and possession horror, I think it’s polarizing and it does scare people like that. People will not watch it because of the subject matter. That’s one of the reasons why I love the genre. Demonic possessions and exorcism, that sort of thing, it forces someone to reflect on eternal things. Horror in general does and when you reflect on your own mortality. It’s the idea that there’s something evil there, there’s an energy, a force or an entity that you can neither see nor control. If that’s the case, you start to think about the essence of the soul.
What is the soul? Do we have a soul? Could it be controlled by another entity that is evil or that wants to hurt you. I think that’s a discomforting thought for a lot of people. I like that. I think that’s an important thing for people to think about. I ready a study a long time ago but it was like, 80 or 90 percent of people believe in an afterlife regardless of religious affiliations. I think that’s very telling, I think human beings as a species want there to be an afterlife. I think because its so unknown, it’s scary. I think that’s one of the reasons why people love demon possession movies or they are terrified of them.
HNN-That makes sense. What are you working on next?
Damien- It’s a contained creature movie. I love creature films. I helped design this monster that is so truly unique and grotesque. It will be entirely practical and no CG. It’s got the most twisted, dark ending that you’ve ever seen since, The Sixth Sense.
HNN-That sounds exciting. I thank you so much Damien for taking the time to talk. The Cleansing Hour was a great movie.
Damien- Thank you so much.