This writer attended the world premiere of Lionsgate’s The Last Exorcism last night at the Ford Theatre in Hollywood, CA, and while there chatted with the flick’s producer Eli Roth, who riffed on the Arcade Pictures/Strike Entertainment/STUDIOCANAL production as well as giving us word on the status of the long anticipated feature version of his Grindhouse Thanksgiving trailer. Read on!
Hosted by the Los Angeles Film Festival and Screamfest LA, The Last Exorcism opens nationwide on August 27th, and on-hand for the event were director Daniel Stamm, producers Roth, Eric Newman and Marc Abraham, composer Nathan (“True Blood”) Barr and cast-members Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Tony Bentley, Irs Bahr, Louis Herthum and Caleb Landry Jones.
“I’m very excited!,” said the very personable Roth of the screening, which, in addition to last night’s audience, was the first time the majority of the cast in attendance had ever seen the completed, PG-13 rated film. Dread would have been remiss in not asking Roth’s feelings on the more audience-friendly rating The Last Exorcism was granted, given his reputation as the progenitor of American ‘torture porn’ (a misnomer, but one undoubtedly born from his creation of the Hostel films).
“Switching hats,” conceded the 38-year-old writer/producer/director-turned-notable actor (Roth won awards for his portrayal of the ‘Bear Jew’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning 2009 film Inglourious Basterds), “but I’ve produced my own films and I enjoy producing, and I’ve always wanted to continually have movies going where I’m working as a director or a producer. You know, I’ll never be able to make all of the movies I want to make in one lifetime so producing is a great way to have a hand in it creatively without carrying the burden of the film. Also, it’s exciting to introduce a new director to the world like Daniel Stamm, who’s just done an amazing job with the movie.”
As for his name having become synonymous with harder-edged splatter films, “It’s interesting and it’s so funny,” replied the filmmaker, “because at the beginning of my career, Cabin Fever was my strong reaction to horror films that I saw as ‘watered-down’ PG-13 horror, where you can feel where it got trimmed down to ‘hit a wider audience’ but therefore cut the balls off of it and took away the very thing fans wanted to see. But then again the R rating has gotten pushed (to the envelope), and so has PG-13. When I saw (Matt Reeves’ 2008 PG-13 rated film) Cloverfield, I thought that movie was really scary.”
“I remember when we shot The Last Exorcism, we didn’t have a rating in mind,” continued Roth. “We just shot what was scariest, and we cut the film to be the scariest, and I actually realized in editing that, ‘I think we are going to get a PG-13, and I hope the fans aren’t bummed out.’ It’s a film about possession and not power tools. It’s really much more at The Ring and The Grudge end of the horror spectrum. It’s a very weird, creepy and disturbing movie, but it doesn’t call for graphic violence the way a film like Hostel does. I feel like if you are going to make a film that’s rated R, you should really take advantage of the rating. I mean, like when you see (the new) Piranha 3D (note: Roth appears in that film), that’s an R rated movie that will satisfy your gore quotient, and that opens the week before The Last Exorcism. This film is much more on the psychological end of the horror spectrum, and Daniel’s done a really great job with it.”
“When I read the script (penned by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland), it was one of the smartest and most compelling scripts I’d ever read,” Roth expounded. “I think the film hasn’t lost any of the teeth (the source material possessed), but the ratings board gave us a PG-13 and we accepted it. Let’s not forget Jaws is rated PG, which is considered by many one of the scariest films of all time, so it is possible, but we didn’t want to remake The Exorcist.”
Like an eight-hundred-pound gorilla, William Friedkin’s classic and two-time Oscar-winning The Exorcist would invariably be brought up in such a conversation, given that the film is what all exorcism flicks have been measured against since its chilling release in 1973.
“Anything The Exorcist does – the voice, the vomiting, the yellow eyes, we can’t do that,” replied Roth. “The Last Exorcism is a different movie, and I think Daniel has made a very compelling and different film, and one that will be a really fun and original addition to the canon of exorcism movies. I mean, with vampire films, look where it’s come from, from Dracula and then to Twilight and to True Blood. I mean, it’s never-ending. People love them. And I think for many years, people were so afraid to make an exorcism or possession movie because as The Exorcist is so prevalent in pop culture, how do you make it scarier? Well, you don’t, because you’ll never make it scarier, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be original and fun, and I felt the script was a really ingenious take on the material, in the way that Cloverfield was a really great take on a Godzilla movie.”
Dread queried Roth on his predictions concerning the religious right’s eventual response to the film, a group who, while having historically lambasted the horror genre, embraced The Exorcist as a pro-religious film upon its release.
“They are going to love it,” he said of The Last Exorcism. “I think the film presents both sides equally. If you are an atheist or if you believe in the devil, you’ll love it, and if you are devoutly religious, you’ll love it. I think it presents both sides very intelligently, and I think that’s one of the things that I loved about the script, that it wasn’t one-sided and that it does keep making you think. It’s a really interesting clash of scientific logic and religion coming together.”
Roth’s next project has been reported as the mass destruction flick Endangered Species, and while we’re certainly looking forward to that one, fan anticipation has been running high for a feature version of his holiday-themed slasher flick Thanksgiving. This isn’t surprising, given the gonzo scene of an unlucky cheerleader performing a split on a vertical butcher knife in the trailer of the same name in Tarantino and Rodriguez’s 2007 flick Grindhouse.
“I’ve been a little busy with finishing up The Last Exorcism, and Inglorious Basterds took up more of my time than I’d anticipated,” communicated Roth, “but my co-writer is working on the script, and he’s supposed to come out this summer so that we can finish it together. We are outlining it right now, and so far in the first twelve pages we have thirty-nine kills so we have to cut back a little! It’s a little too much! But yes, it’s an idea that doesn’t let me sleep at night so I have to do it before I die, or my life will be a failure.”
For more on The Last Exorcism visit the official The Last Exorcism site – and stay tuned for our review coming shortly. In the interim dig on some images from the event below!
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