Exclusive Interview: Adrian García Bogliano Talks Here Comes the Devil and More
Adrián García Bogliano (Penumbra, Cold Sweat) is a man that knows what he wants to do and does it. While some directors may feel it necessary to leave the horror genre behind to find their success, he’s compelled to dig deeper and deeper to find what truly disturbs people.
His next film, Here Comes the Devil, tells the story of a married couple that lose their children for an entire day while on a trip to Tijuana. The kids reappear soon after, seemingly unharmed. But it’s soon obvious that something terrible has changed them.
I recently had the chance to sit down with Bogliano and talk about Here Comes the Devil, what filmmakers inspire him, the struggles that come along with releasing Spanish language films in America and much more. Check it out!
Dread: First things first, I’ve seen “Cold Sweat” recently and I have to say that I was really impressed with how you could create so much tension out of such a small space. It’s one location, it’s hallways and rooms, there’s not a lot of moving parts to it. How you were you able to pull that off?
Bogliano: The whole idea was to make a film that was an homage to “Sorcerer”, to William Friedkin, but at the same time it’s quite the opposite. Because in “Sorcerer” they are going with these two trucks over a very long distance. I wanted to create that in a very small space. Basically what I tried to do was make really big close ups and use these micro lenses to make the moving of those drops something very big on the screen. I wanted to change the perspective. I wanted to make what William Friedkin did in 200 kilometers in 200 meters; it was that kind of idea.
I have experience making other films in houses, in very small places like that. That taught me a lot, too. Which I think is something very important, to not overuse the space of a house or something like that. Focusing on one thing and saying “Okay, in this scene I’m only going to show this so that in the next I can move on and show something bigger and change the perspective.” It’s stuff like that that’s really fun for a director, I think.
Dread: With your new film, Here Comes the Devil, explain how this project got off the ground and what’s the story behind it.
Bogliano: Well, the basic idea for me was to make the opposite of what I did in both “Cold Sweat” and “Penumbra”. Those are both films that are made in very small spaces. With “Here Comes the Devil” I wanted to make something in a lot of different locations, in a lot of open spaces, because I was kind of tired of doing kind of the same thing with those two movies. Those two movies had different approaches, but I felt like I needed some more air.
I took this story that was something I was interested in for the last 10 years or so, that was originally very low key horror film that was almost more like a drama than horror, and I tried to rethink that idea. I said “Okay, I have to make this a horror film. It has to be horror. It has to be less of the family drama that I had in mind for all those years.” And I found what I think is the right approach to that. It’s basically the story of 2 parents that lose their kids for one day, and when their kids come back something has changed in them and they try to find out what it is.
I wanted to play both that with the idea of something supernatural and at the same time the idea that maybe they had been abused. Something like “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, that was the basic source of inspiration. That was the idea.
What happened was that the people at Dark Sky films approached me and wanted to do something with me. I said that I had this project and it would be really great, but the only thing is that it has to happen in Mexico and it has to be Spanish language. Which I thought was going to be something that they were not going to like. But they were really supportive; they really liked the project from the first moment on. We got the film made in Mexico, which is something pretty cool. I think it’s probably the first time that an American company supported a Spanish language horror film, and I’m really glad they did. It’s something pretty nice. I think it’s a pretty different from what’s being made here now.
Dread: With Here Comes the Devil you say that you shot a lot of different locations compared to your previous films. Explain a little bit about the challenges that are inherent when shooting bigger as opposed to filming smaller.
Bogliano: Not really filming bigger, but approaching differently with each movie. Personally I don’t believe that you need to go “bigger” in every film. I kind of hate that approach that I think a lot of filmmakers have. I think that every movie needs different things. If you think only about going bigger in terms of budget, I think you’re mistaken. You have to think about what the movie needs.
I feel that, working only in horror films, I need to find different approaches every time, to explore different things, to grow, to learn. I feel like some directors, or most directors I should say, need to experiment in different genres with each movie. I think I will become a better director if I stay in one genre, and try to explore that and go deeper and deeper, trying to make better films each time. That’s basically what I’m interested in, finding different approaches to the horror genre every time.
Dread: You say that there are a lot more locations in this. Where all did you shoot and what kind of trials did you face shooting in more locations?
Bogliano: Yeah, I shot a lot in different locations in Tijuana and the outskirts of Tijuana. It was interesting because Tijuana is a very different world from the rest of Mexico, actually. It’s got a lot of influence from American culture. It’s pretty far from Mexico but it’s not the U.S. either. It’s a very interesting and strange place. It has very interesting locations too, and a lot of talented actors and people that really want to make things there. In a place that’s very far from Mexico City where pretty much everything is produced. We did a lot of scouting to find the right locations; it was a pretty nice experience. It was very intense, I have to say. It was a very short shoot and it was really, really intense.
Dread: You say that you had a short shooting schedule. How long was it and what kind of constraints did you have having to shoot so fast?
Bogliano: I’m very used to working fast, so it wasn’t that strange. It makes you focused all the time, you can’t waste a second. I think that it’s interesting because it keeps some sort of energy in the actors that you can’t get otherwise. Otherwise you’d need very professional actors with a lot of skills to know exactly where they were in the last take, 2 days ago.
I have this big problem. If I’m going to have a bigger schedule, I tend to create shorter scenes to make the scenes fit in a day. Because I feel like them going back 2 days, 3 days to the same scene is very difficult. We had to do that kind of stuff in “Penumbra” and it was difficult. We were lucky that our leading actress in that film, Christina Brondo, is an actress that has worked in a lot of films and she’s good at that. Sometimes you find actors that are good, but they don’t have the skills to come back to the same exact mood that they were in previous days.
Dread: Talk about the cast a little. Are they people you’ve worked with in the past?
Bogliano: In this case it was all new actors for me, people that I’ve never worked with. Almost all were actors from Tijuana, which was really cool to watch them and see the style of their acting. Actually the leading actress was somebody that didn’t really have any experience in acting, she’s a singer. She had this amazing energy and she understood the character so fast, I was really, really impressed. Sometimes it’s pretty interesting to work with people that approach acting in a different way.
We have Francisco Barreiro as the leading man, who was a very important figure on set. He’s a very professional actor, one of the best actors of his generation in Mexico. He was the leading man of “We Are What We Are,” which I think was released last year here, an amazing film. He, being so professional, was kind of the actor that led the rest of the actors, showing them how to do it in a way. At the same time, the other actors were approaching in a very interesting way because most of them didn’t have a lot of experience. It was a really nice cast.
Dread: Earlier you were talking about how all your films are Spanish language. Could you explain a little bit about the difficulties in just getting it out there to people? Most Americans tend to not like subtitled films.
Bogliano: It took a lot of time for me to understand that. I’d go to these amazing DVD stores here in the U.S., and I’d find my films not in the horror section, but in the foreign section. It seems to me that the foreign films section is more “artsy” or something like that. I don’t think that somebody that’s looking for Bergman films is going to like a lot of my movies. I don’t think so. They should be with the horror films. It’s kind of frustrating. I think that these films should be there with the horror. Films like “The Silent House” and films that have been made in the past few years shouldn’t be in the foreign section.
Dread: Even something like Let the Right One In, nobody would have seen that if people didn’t get behind it.
Bogliano: Exactly, exactly. I think it’s a little bit frustrating, yeah. But, at the same time, I have to say to be absolutely fair with Americans, they tend to talk more about, and pay more attention to those Latin American or Spanish speaking or “foreign” films than any other country in the world.
The first place where I had some recognition, were I had my first good reviews, was here in the U.S. I couldn’t release my first film in Argentina, but I released it here. I couldn’t get a newspaper in Argentina to print a review, but I had one in the New York Times. That was pretty interesting.
Yeah, it’s got its frustrating moments, but to me it’s important to shoot in Spanish because if you don’t, I just feel like it’s fake. I think that Latin American filmmakers that have tried to make English language films don’t succeed because you feel like that’s fake. You feel like that’s weird. I think probably the only ones that have success and have done an amazing job at English language films were the Italians in the 60s and 70s.
Dread: Like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, spaghetti westerns, stuff like that?
Bogliano: Yeah, and Argento and stuff like that. They succeeded in a way; I don’t know exactly what happened. I think what’s interesting is that you see the language and the culture of that country. I couldn’t imagine the “J-Horror” films in English. It would be absurd. I’ve always felt the same way about Latin American films; they should be Spanish language, in their original language. They would have certain restrictions when it comes to being shown here in the U.S., but at the same time people would see them more. I’m sure of this.
Dread: You said earlier you’re mostly interested in only doing more horror films; after Here Comes the Devil, do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Bogliano: Yeah, I have this amazing project called “The ABCs of Death.” I’m involved with that and it’s going to be released in October, I think. I haven’t seen the completed film yet, but I’m really excited about that project.
After that I’m preparing 2 more films, one of them is going to be shot here in the U.S. So it’s just a matter of seeing which one of them comes first. I’ll keep making horror films because I feel like that is the only way I can learn, by going deeper and deeper into the horror genre.
Dread: Being that you’re only interested in making horror films, besides the horror genre, where do you pull inspiration from?
Bogliano: Oh, from all kinds of films, for sure. I feel like you need to have inspiration from everywhere you can. Whenever I can I grab things from paintings, from music, from literature, from all kinds of sources
For “Here Comes the Devil” besides “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, I think that one of the biggest influences is a film that’s kind of got a horror mood but it’s not a horror film called “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Peter Weir. That’s one of the biggest inspirations. I tried to grab things from wherever I can.
The other big inspiration for me, for sure, is Nicholas Roeg. “Don’t Look Now” is a horror film, a great horror film, but I took elements from his entire career. From “Bad Timing” or “Eureka” or films that are not necessarily horror films. For me it’s just a matter of finding the right elements and putting the jigsaw together.
Dread: Here Comes the Devil is being put out by Dark Sky films. How has it been working with them?
Bogliano: It’s amazing. To be honest, I’ve never had so much freedom. I was very afraid of having some issues because there is some sexual content in the movie. I know in America, after the 80s, you can put a lot of violence in the movies but you can’t have a lot of sexuality. So I was kind of concerned about that. But they didn’t interfere with anything. I’m really, really grateful for that.
When the time came to shoot the film and edit it, they didn’t interfere at all. I feel like they have a lot of confidence in my work, that’s pretty amazing. I feel like they’re one of the few companies that really believe in their directors and the way that directors are going to improve their films in the horror genre. So it’s pretty amazing to have a chance to work with them.
Dread: You said that Here Comes the Devil kind of has you questioning whether or not it’s supernatural, and Cold Sweat was not supernatural at all; explain your philosophy when it comes to what scares you in a movie like that. Do you prefer to go more real, or do you like supernatural?
Bogliano: All of my films have been mostly “real” horror. I’ve had a few supernatural elements here and there, but not nearly as many as are in “Here Comes the Devil.” I’ve always liked more realistic horror films, but I like all kinds of films.
This was, in a way, my response to being tired of supernatural films that I’ve hated from the last few years. I wanted to pay tribute to some supernatural films that I really enjoy a lot, like “Don’t Look Now.” And also what’s the best haunted house film ever, for me, “The Entity.” It’s a film that I love so much.
It’s funny because I’ve realized that I like a lot of slasher films and more realistic, if you can say that, horror films, not as much supernatural. I felt that it was kind of my comfort zone. I felt that I was more comfortable working there, so I decided that to switch to something supernatural, something that I wasn’t really sure how to work with. I had to think harder in how to sell that. Because I felt that one of the thing that annoys me the most in supernatural films over the last few years is that they don’t know how to show things, that’s why you don’t get to see much, because they don’t know how to solve that problem. I was trying to avoid that, and say “Okay, I’m going to try to think how to show these supernatural elements.” I don’t know if I succeeded yet, but it’s my first approach and I’m going to keep trying.
Dread: That kind of brings me to my last question here. Talk a little about the content of the film. You say there’s sexual content, there’s violence, what can we expect to see?
Bogliano: It’s not a gorefest. It has a few very nasty, shocking moments. One moment in particular I consider to be the peak of my filmography so far. But it’s not so much about blood and gore like other films. I love to show blood but that’s not really the case in this film. I think there is more sexual content and more sexual elements than blood, I think it’s going to be pretty disturbing. It’s infused with sexual taboos and stuff like that that can be really, really disturbing. I’ve had a few people that have seen what we have so far, people that are pretty difficult to get nervous, and they got pretty nervous with this film.
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