The possession sub-genre of horror is a tough sell lately, but actor Shane Johnson dove into the title role of The Possession of Michael King in a big way. He recently sat down with Dread Central to talk about his approach to the part and his feelings about the film.
Although he often reads scripts from the horror genre, Johnson was immediately drawn to this movie and the character of Michael King. “The thing that attracted me to this piece in particular is that it really spoke to me,” Johnson said.
He added, “I could really relate to this character. He starts off having a traumatic experience in his life and that sort of propels him into questioning. Questioning life, questioning the afterlife, questioning things. The thing I liked about it is you get to see all angles of it from his perspective. You get to see a full hero’s journey of a guy entering the unknown and it overtaking him. For me as an actor, it was really exciting. And also there aren’t very many opportunities as an actor that you get to really jump into a character that has as much screen time but really, more than anything, gets to walk the full journey. Usually it’s an ensemble piece and everyone gets their little bit. But this is all about the psyche of this guy and opening up a can of worms and watching him deteriorate. I loved it!”
Johnson talked about how the movie’s writer/director David Jung managed to wring out every bit of intensity Johnson could give to the role. “Getting to work with David Jung was awesome,” Johnson said. “Great collaboration. What’s funny was that every time I thought I was bringing my A-game and I was thinking I was at a 10, I put everything I had into a scene. Everything, like I’m sweating and thinking I should see a doctor right now. David would come over and say, ‘So listen…you’re at about a five right now, and I need you at 14.'”
Wanting to bring everything he could to the table, Johnson began absorbing as much information as he could that was pertinent to the role. “Thankfully I had a couple of months to prepare for this movie,” Johnson said. “I took that time to really go through and watch everything I could get my hands on and kind of see what works and what doesn’t work. Because there’s a lot of what doesn’t work out there. So I was just seeing what really works in those films. I saw a couple movies where I was thinking ‘that guy or that girl really understands this’ and they would pull it off. For example, in The Last Exorcism, Patrick Fabian, who played Cotton Marcus, the guy really bought into it and committed to the whole situation, really went on the journey. I really did my homework. I watched a bunch of stuff and read a bunch of stuff. I studied up on demonology and necromancy. I really did my homework so I felt like I came into the project with some ammunition. And I had to put on my best acting chops. I wanted the audience to be able to forget they were watching a movie and just have an experience.”
In addition to preparing mentally for his role in The Possession of Michael King, Johnson also found it necessary to prepare physically. “Ninety-five percent of the stuff you might question as to whether or not it’s a camera trick is not a camera trick,” Johnson said. “That was another part of my preparation. I said, ‘Okay, I’ve got a few months here. I’d better do some yoga, some working out and be ready to be physical.’ In some of those scenes you look at it and go, ‘Oh, that looks pretty physical.’ But you’ve got to remember I was doing that for a whole day. I crawled up the stairs on my hands and knees probably 50 times in one day.”
The Possession of Michael King is a movie that used its effects wisely and effectively. Johnson talked about working with the props. “I loved it, I loved it! Johnson said. “Getting set on fire was a blast! It takes a while to apply the prosthetics, but once we were working with them, it was pretty trippy. I’m looking down at myself going, ‘Wow, it looks real!’ The experience was great, and I think what was captured on camera was pretty fantastic.”
If prosthetic wounds and fire weren’t enough, Johnson had something else out of the ordinary to deal with on the set. “The ants,” Johnson said. “Ninety-five to ninety-eight percent of those ants were real. They hunted for quite a while to find a guy that breeds ants. And they got these large carpenter ants because in screen tests regular ants didn’t show up. They’re tiny and they’re not scary. So they got these huge, huge ants you could almost put a saddle on and ride around. In one shot you can see one crawling into my ear. That was really happening. I was thinking, ‘I hope he yells “cut” before it goes into my head.'”
In closing, Johnson shared his hope for The Possession of Michael King. “I really feel this film is worthy of exposure,” Johnson said. “That’s my real hope, that it gets the exposure it deserves because I think fans of the genre will respond to it.”
Anchor Bay Films is releasing the highly-anticipated, terrifying supernatural horror film The Possession of Michael King in theaters on August 22nd and available On iTunes, On Demand, DVD, and Blu-ray on August 26th.
The film tells the story of documentary filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson), who doesn’t believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, Michael decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the center of the experiment – allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him – in the hopes that when they fail, he’ll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go.
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