CS Interview: Tobin Bell on chilling possession pic Belzebuth
ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with horror icon Tobin Bell (Saw franchise) to discuss his role in the possession pic Belzebuth, which is coming to shelves on Blu-ray and DVD from Shudder on July 7 and can be pre-ordered here!
In looking back at getting the offer to do the film and choosing to sign on, Bell cited co-writer/director Emilio Portes as the biggest draw for wanting to be a part of the project, crediting the Mexican filmmaker’s “very strong visual sense” and his “clear ideas” about the film and Bell’s character.
“He showed me storyboards about how he planned to shoot the film and the idea of being in Mexico City for nearly three weeks was fascinating to me as I hadn’t spent any time there,” Bell explained. “When you have an opportunity to do that, that’s enriching and the marriage of demonology with conventional Catholic religion was fascinating to me. Having been raised a Catholic, I was drawn to explore that, so Emilio’s enthusiasm was what got me going.”
The 77-year-old star described the opportunity of getting to work in Mexico City as “amazing” and describing the area as having “a rich history of filmmaking” that he’s been eager to explore in his 40-plus year career, also expressing excitement of getting to film at an iconic location.
“Mexican filmmaking has been going on since the 1930s and there’s a very strong commitment to high-quality filmmaking in that country and when you travel to foreign countries, you end up learning a lot about how artists the work there and the kind of craftsmanship,” Bell described. “I’ve had that kind of experience in Mexico and the Czech Republic, the quality of the artists there from makeup to scenic designers to carpenters was amazing and being at the Churubusco Studios, which is a historic stage in Mexico City. I was very touched and proud to have worked at Churubusco.”
Though well-known to general audiences as the mastermind behind the events of the Leigh Whannell and James Wan-created Saw franchise, Jigsaw, Belzebuth sees Bell take on a much more protagonist role and though it’s different than what he’s brought before, he found there wasn’t much of a change in his own development of his character.
“I always try to bring something positive to what I play,” Bell explained. “Bad guys don’t really look at themselves as bad, there’s always some kind of justification for their behavior, so I was trying to find those justifications and sometimes they’re stronger than others. I’m always looking for the opposite direction from what’s on the page, what’s on the page will reveal itself because it will play out in the movie, whatever the character does is whatever the character does and you will see that as a viewer. But what an actor can bring is what’s not on the page and what’s going on inside the character, what motivates him to do what he does and in this case, he’s a pretty potent guy. He finds that his job, there are these evil forces that are looking for this child so he gets into bed, shall we say, with these evil forces so that they are convinced that he is one of them. As you can see from his look in it, with the tattoos that he does it quite convincingly and with a huge commitment and I won’t say whether he’s successful or not, when people see the film they’ll find out.”
One of the biggest elements of the film that Bell found to be fascinating and a big draw to be a part of the production was its exploration of demonology, which he describes as “the occupation of the innocent” and discussing his own dive into the concept.
“Half the time in demonology it’s possession, the person that you see in front of you is not the person that you are seeing, but an occupying spirit in that person,” Bell noted. “That’s one of the things that’s so different in this film and I love that, I love anything that has to do with spirituality and belief on certain levels and shamanism and things of that sort, and it’s ancient, it’s not like something we’ve discovered in the 2020s, it’s ancient. I think in some ways, there’s something about the timing of this release is really fascinating, given what’s going on out there in terms of this pandemic going on and the kind of evil force that’s surrounded us all, it’s kind of chilling in a way.”
Though the film premiered on AMC’s horror-tinged streaming service last summer, Tuesday marks the first time the film is getting a proper home media release in the US and when Bell first heard word that Shudder had acquired the film for streaming and physical release, he recalled he found it to be “great,” especially as much of audience’s watching habits today are “about streaming.”
“Now, everyone’s at home, so I think that a lot more people have the opportunity of having time on their hands and have the opportunity to take a look at something new, so I think it’s very wise of Shudder to do that and to open up the conventional horror market to the sort of relatively new look at Emilio Portes’ approach to this genre,” Bell warmly opined. “He’s got some pretty good credentials in other genres, but I think this is one of his first ventures into this genre and he’s very committed to horror, so I think he did a marvelous job.”
I think it’s great because everything has come to some extent about streaming Belzebuth, Special Agent Emanuel Ritter leads a police investigation into a series of shocking deaths. But after a priest from the Vatican finds a link between the murders and an ancient demon, a descent into horror ensues.
Portes directs a script he co-wrote with Luis Carlos Fuentes and a cast that includes Bell, Joaquín Cosio (Narcos: Mexico, The Lone Ranger) and Tate Ellington (Sinister 2). The film is available to stream on Shudder now and is set to hit shelves on Blu-ray and DVD on July 7!