This week, Scott Derrickson, the director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister treads supernatural waters yet again in Deliver Us from Evil, the thriller opening this week that merges the police procedural genre with the supernatural. Shock caught up to Derrickson this week – who called in from the Marvel offices where he was at work on Doctor Strange – for our second chat (following the one we had at WonderCon) about the film and his upcoming project based on The Outer Limits episode, Demons With a Glass Hand.
In Deliver Us from Evil, New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), struggling with his own personal issues, begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city. Based upon the book, which details Sarchie's bone-chilling real-life cases.
Ryan Turek: I just want to touch on the themes of faith and belief that run through your films, from The Exorcism of Emily Rose to Deliver Us from Evil, hell, even Sinister…
Scott Derrickson: It's certainly a common thing and an important subject to me," he said. "First of all, I don't think this is treated seriously in movies and the genre I work in calls for it – if you make it grounded in any way, that's an issue. I'm not trying to make faith or belief an abstraction. The best example I can give is all of my friends – I have dearest friends – who have had lives have destroyed by addiction and they've simply been been empowermed by faith. What I'm not interested in is propogating a specific religious belief. I'm interested in looking at the world that goes beyond the material. There's something beyond that.
Turek: And that viewpoint is embodied in Edgar's character, Father Mendoza…
Derrickson: [Edgar’s character] is a perfect example of why I made the movie. There are people who dedicate their lives to the service of God and there are no characters that are more stereotyped than priests and pastors. To create a priest who didn't fall into a stereotype and was portrayed as a flawed human being was appealing to me. He was an addict and he would not have survived if they had not found God. He still stumbles and drinks and smokes, but what is at the heart of him is the desire to help people. In terms of him being an exorcist, he wasn't the typical 'priest warrior' battling demonic forces. He's about rescuing people and I just wanted to portray a guy like that in a unique way.
Turek: I see you shot the opening sequence in Abu Dhabi. That was a surprise!
Derrickson: We shot that opening sequence in Abu Dhabi for budget reasons. The pricing of being able to shoot there made it affordable. I'm glad we went, but it was 115-degrees. The scope was great, though. There's this model in horror films today that need to be broken. I'm happy to have participated in what Blumhouse is doing, but there's a familiarity that has set in. Being able to open up our film to the Bronx and having that visual backdrop, or going to Abu Dhabi…hopefully that scope will continue to happen in the genre. We spent about $18 million on the actual production – that doesn't include fees and stuff, but actual shooting. You're not going to see horror reach high budgets, but middle range is rare. Hopefully, we'll see more of that, I hope we get there again.
Turek: You're a big horror fan, further, one who has tackled the exorcism sub-genre – how difficult was it a task to make this film's exorcism sequence unique?
Derrickson: The exorcism scene was a big challenge, it was the same as Emily Rose – for me, it was about the performers and the actors. The thing you don't get tired of is seeing them doing what they do well. With our exorcism there are six stages, but you're bringing to it the history of these men involved. I should say this is not a possession movie, you don't see someone being oppressed and attacked in bed and then getting diangosed…which is usually the model. This is more about hunting a calculating guy.
Turek: While you're at a work on Doctor Strange, you're also developing The Outer Limits film Demon With a Glass Hand. To me, that's a great choice, but when it was announced, it was totally unexpected…
Derrickson: I always liked The Outer Limits as a kid. More than The Twilight Zone. The series was just more grounded and effective to me and that episode is amazing. When I approached MGM about possibly adapting The Outer Limits, they had no rules or guidelines. So, I just watched all of the episodes. I got to that one and it's a well-known episode. But I was amazed it had not been stolen from more often. I realized it had not, because it was such a tightly-wound narrative. To rip off an aspct of it, you would need to rip off the whole thing. I felt, we could adapt it and keep the story. So, we're taking the Harlan Ellison story and making a movie out of that. I think that's what people will want and what a modern audience will respond to.