Immersing themselves in new experiences in a familiar environment is a powerful motivator for both performers and characters to better understand themselves in films. That’s certainly the case for actor Matt Dallas in the new supernatural horror movie, ‘Along Came the Devil.’ The entertainer is returning to the genre world after having his breakout role in the hit mystery television series, ‘Kyle XY.’ But he’s now portraying a different type of character he’s never had the chance to play in any of his previous projects. Dallas also ventured into new professional territory by making his feature film producing debut on his new thriller.
Gravitas Ventures is releasing ‘Along Came the Devil’ tomorrow in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD. The drama was directed by Jason DeVan, who also served as a producer and co-writer.
‘Along Came the Devil’ follows high school student Ashley (Sydney Sweeney), who’s sent to live with her estranged Aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth), after her older sister goes away to college. Tanya now takes on the job of protecting her niece, after Ashley’s mom died when her children were young. Following the death of their mother, the teen and her sister struggled with living with their abusive father. But Ashley now has some stability in her life, after returning to her old hometown and reconnecting with her aunt, who was her mom’s sister.
After also reuniting with her childhood friend, Hannah (Madison Lintz), and some of their other classmates, at a lake before she starts attending school, Ashley begins having visions of her deceased mom. Ashley and Hannah then decide to hold a séance, in order to contact the spirit world and her mom. During the séance, Ashley unknowingly unearths a demonic force. Sensing the trouble that her niece is now experiencing, Tanya contacts Reverend Michael (Bruce Davison) at her church, in order to obtain guidance in saving Ashley. The reverend recruits the help of Pastor John (Dallas), who’s also new to the town. Despite knowing little about the teen’s situation, the pastor immediately agrees to aid his superior in saving the teen’s life.
Dallas generously took the time recently to talk about starring in and producing ‘Along Came the Devil’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actor-producer discussed how he was drawn to play Pastor John in the movie because it’s a role that he hasn’t had the opportunity to play before, and he likes that the story pays homage to classic horror films. He also mentioned that he appreciated that as a director, DeVan encouraged him and his co-stars to challenge themselves in their performances, and also admired the filmmaker’s vision and take on the story.
ShockYa (SY): You play Pastor John in the new supernatural horror movie, ‘Along Came the Devil.’ What was it about the character, as well as the overall story, that convinced you to take on the role?
Matt Dallas (MD): The casting director, Ricki Maslar, sent me the project. She said it was something I hadn’t really had the opportunity to play before, and advised me to take a look at the script. I ended up really enjoying this screenplay. So I reached out to her and said I was interested.
This film also really pays homage to ‘The Exorcist’ and the other horror movies of that era. It also felt really refreshing and new, and not like every other horror script that gets sent my way. So I was excited to get to be a part of it.
After I agreed to take on the role of Pastor John, I then had the chance to have a call with the film’s director, Jason DeVan, and I really hit it off with him. I loved his vision and take on the story. So from there, we both said yes, let’s make this movie together.
SY: ‘Along Came the Devil’ was directed by Jason DeVan, who you just mentioned. He also co-wrote the script, and served as a producer. What was your experience of working with him on your scenes? Did you have the chance to discuss your character’s arc in the story?
MD: Yes, we definitely spoke about the character. Since Pastor John is the new guy in town, there was a lot of room for us to create the backstory about his hidden secrets and past. We collaborated a lot about why Pastor John was there, where he comes from and who he is. I also did a lot of preparation and research, so that I could understand the ideas and visions he had.
That was exciting, because Jason is constantly playing. He’s also always coming up with new ideas. So getting to work with someone who’s continuously bringing something new to the table and is always challenges you to break outside of the box that you would normally build was amazing. So that was a really exciting process to go through with him.
SY: Also speaking of your preparation process, once you signed on to play Pastor John, did you do any additional research, besides reading the script, to better understand how he would approach the demonology of the story?
MD: There were two major things that I did research on. I watched a lot of horror movies from the ’70s. I really allowed myself to get immersed in that world. I also did research into the religious aspects. I don’t come from a very religious upbringing; we didn’t go to church often as a family. So I really studied up on religion, demons and exorcisms. I worked to get that in my bones, so that I could really understand someone what’s so passionate about religion.
SY: How does ‘Along Came the Devil’ pay tribute to, and how is it also unique in, the horror genre?
MD: We all spoke a lot about films from the ’70s, and wanted to pay homage to them. But we also wanted to make it modern and new; we didn’t want to make a movie that felt like it entirely belonged in the ’70s. We wanted to make it relevant to today, and put a fresh and modern spin on this type of story.
One of the ways we did that was to do a lot of the special effects practically, and use CGI as little as possible. That really helped when we were on set; we didn’t use green screen, and weren’t told to react like there were demons right next to us.
The crew did that in part by using full demon suits. The make-up artists were incredible, and so were the things they brought to the set. It was so much fun to get to make a film like that. I’ve worked on other movies that used so much CGI. So it really felt like we were making a special movie (with ‘Along Came the Devil’) that really plays homage to the genre.
SY: Speaking of the special effects, do you generally prefer working with practical effects, as opposed to using all CGI?
MD: As an actor, it’s definitely beneficial to see everything practically on the day. **SPOILER ALERT** For example, there’s one scene where Sydney Sweeney, who plays Ashley, is tied up to her bed, after she becomes possessed, and I go over to help restrain her. A demon then comes out from behind her pillow next to me. It would have been easier to add that demon in digitally during post-production, but the crew decided to make the whole pillow, and have the whole demon face come out. That made everything in the scene feel so much real.er **END SPOILER ALERT** So as an actor, it makes the process so much more fun and real when they use practical effects.
SY: The supernatural thriller also stars Sydney Sweeney, who you just mentioned, as well as Jessica Barth and Bruce Davison. What was your experience of collaborating with them, and building your characters’ relationships?
MD: We didn’t really talk about the script a lot. In independent filmmaking, there’s never a lot of time for rehearsal. So instead, we did a lot of digging through the script together during our downtime. Getting to work with all of them was a pretty great experience. We had fun on-and-off set.
Sydney showed up with a notebook that was filled with notes. I think she wrote a diary from her character’s perspective. There were pages of backstory. Sydney is a beautiful and fearless actor.
Also getting to work with an Oscar-nominated actor like Bruce was also pretty great. Being able to hear his journey and story about his life was also amazing.
SY: The drama was shot on location in Atlanta. What was the experience of filming the movie on location-do you prefer shooting outside of Los Angeles?
MD: Shooting on location is amazing. It allows you to immerse yourself in the world of the project much more. When you shoot at home in L.A., you get up, go to work and then go home. So it’s easier to step out of the world that way. But when you’re on location, you’re always with the rest of the cast and crew, even when you’re not working. So the world of the characters is always simmering, even when you’re not at work.
SY: TIn addition to starring in ‘Along Came the Devil,’ you also served as one of the co-producers. Why did you decide to also produce the horror movie? How did you balance your acting and producing duties?
MD: One of the beautiful things about independent films is that almost everyone is working on the set because of their passion for the story. So there’s a lot more creative freedom and passion. You’re also forced to work more creatively.
But when you work on a studio movie or television series, you have more downtime. There are so many more people who have a say. So working on independent and studio films are really different experiences.
SY: The drama will open in theaters, as well as on VOD and Digital platforms, on August 10. Do you think the VOD platform is beneficial for the horror genre?
MD: It’s an exciting time in the way independent movies are being released. The traditional way films used to be distributed now feels dated. So many people who have kids are watching movies on their phones and laptops, because it’s a lot harder to get to the theater now. They want to be able to put the kids to bed and then watch a horror film at home. It’s great to still have that theater experience, but also have movies available to watch at home. So it’s an exciting time for entertainment.