How can you not love the passion of a director who scoots around set, taking every shot in on camera while strapped into a pair of rollerblades? Director Mark Neveldine, whose previous projects centered firmly on insane action (Crank and Gamer), makes the hellish leap towards the exorcism classification in horror with The Vatican Tapes. He was gracious enough to put the brakes on his skates for a few to answer some questions, so don’t expect him to be around for too long, as those wheels were meant to make tracks – enjoy!
DC: Mark, can you give the readers a little bit of the story involved in the film itself?
MN: Sure – it’s a film about this girl named Angela who is like any of us, and her sin is that she’s human, and there’s an undercurrent of things happening around her, and things are going to get very dark for those around her, and she needs some help. Her Dad is there to help her out, along with her significant other, and after some time in the hospital, it’s determined that she needs the help of a psychiatrist, and as the story moves along, we think that what is going to happen to her will fall in line with the classic possession, but in the end we find out that it’s something much bigger. What’s really cool about this film is that it’s like an origin story, but it’s camouflaged underneath this spooky little possession film – we wanted it to be much bigger, but be very naturalistic at a story level – we didn’t want to use demonized pendants or Ouija boards, but we wanted it to be very simple in that the devil can choose anyone, and that’s the movie in a nutshell!
DC: With all of the exorcism films that have come down the pipe lately, what did you do to ensure that yours would be set apart from the rest?
MN: Well, I didn’t really do anything, and that’s probably part of it – I’m a big fan of films like The Exorcist, which came out when I was born, and even the modern day The Last Exorcism, which I thought was fantastic. So all I really did was follow the storylines, and it sort of played off of the elements of these other possession films, but it decided to go a little further and be a spice-of-life possession film, and that was really neat to me. I remember producers Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi calling me, and they were really excited for me to read the script, and at first I didn’t think it was something they’d want me to direct, and then I read it and I thought it was really cool and I was very shocked that they would want me to have such a large part in their film, but the timing was right, and I always wanted to do a horror-thriller, so I was ready to dive in and tackle it.
DC: You’ve primarily filmed action movies prior to this film – did you find a different mode of thinking was needed to make the jump from action to horror when filming?
MN: Of course – I mean, this is so much more of a slow burn than the action films that I’ve directed, and the acting is completely different – it’s much more naturalistic and organic, and there are heightened performances mainly due to the emotion and what’s happening on-screen. Crank and Gamer are heightened-world films, so my approach was completely different, much like when I was writing, directing, and acting in New York City – you take a lot of time for characters to evolve, and this was the first time that I’ve been able to rehearse with the actors. This was the shortest shoot that I’ve ever been on – I didn’t have the production days, but I did have three weeks before we started shooting to have real rehearsals, and I was able to block out the scenes before we ever got to the soundstage, so it was really a whole different approach. I still love to amp up the frenetic moments when I can, and I did shoot a couple of shots on rollerblades!
DC: With all that you’ve done between your on-camera as well as your behind the camera work, which do you feel is the most personally rewarding?
MN: Wow – in my head right now I think camera operating is just for fun, but at any given time if I’m deep into a script, and I’m writing and in the zone, it’s like the greatest feeling ever. As far as production and filmmaking itself, I love operating and being right there with the actor, and getting in their ear and keeping them in the moment – I’ll keep that camera rolling and keep it organic and moving as much as I can.
DC: So, after the release of this film, what’s up next on the work slate for you?
MN: I just finished producing a movie called Urge and another movie called Officer Downe, which is a graphic novel from Joe Casey – I produced it and also got in there for some fun camerawork, and Clown from Slipknot actually directed the film – it’s an incredible film and we’re knee-deep in post-production (about 6 weeks in), so we’re really excited about that. I’ve also got a couple of things that I can’t really say what they’re going to be – I’m working on a TV pilot, as well as a couple of features.
The Vatican Tapes is directed by Mark Neveldine (Crank). The demonic possession drama stars Michael Pena (interview), Djimon Hounsou, Dougray Scott, Cas Anvar, Peter Andersson, and Olivia Dudley (interview).
THE VATICAN TAPES follows the ultimate battle between good and evil- God versus Satan. Angela Holmes (Dudley) is an ordinary 27-year-old until she begins to have a devastating effect on anyone close, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected, but when the Vatican is called upon to exorcise the demon, the possession proves to be an ancient satanic force more powerful than ever imagined. It’s all up to Father Lozano (Pena) to wage war for more than just Angela’s soul, but for the world as we know it.