Prey For The Devil is more than an average exorcism movie, and that was director Daniel Stamm’s plan from the start.
“[I]t doesn’t waste any time with the question of if it’s possession or not. Because if I bought a ticket for a possession movie, I don’t want to sit through 45 minutes of, ‘Oh, I wonder if she’s possessed.'”
“She’s possessed,” Stamm said.
“So for the movie to go, ‘welcome to the exorcism movie. Let’s go,’ saved so much time that we suddenly had an hour and a half to do set pieces and to do that kind of stuff, and to do the action.”
Prey For The Devil balances action and drama with horror in a way that makes it very unique, and for star Jacqueline Byers, who plays Sister Ann, she was drawn to the role from the start.
“I read the script and I saw a certain amount of courage that I was like, ‘I could use a little bit more of that in my life,'” Byers said.
“I think she’s experienced a ton of trauma in her life, but I don’t think she lets that trauma define her,” Byers said. “I focused more on what she wants and her drive to get what she wants, but also within that she has experienced a life that she doesn’t feel great about before becoming a nun.”
However Byers might not be taking all the credit she deserves for Sister Ann. Stamm said that Byers not only brought the character to life, but also gave him a lot to think about and work with for the film.
“I was getting ready. I had prepared. I was like, ‘I’m going to impress that actress from minute one. I’m going to show her how smart I am here,’ you know. And then Jackie was like, ‘All right, let me talk you through this,’ and then she talked me through the script for 2 hours. I was like, I have nothing to add.”
Beyond Sister Ann’s strength, the character also represents a kick-ass woman defying old, outdated stereotypes.
“The feminism of it all, I think that’s the whole justification for the movie to exist,” Stamm said. “Exorcism itself is a pretty narrow genre because you owe the audience certain set pieces and that’s what they came for, but they’re also getting ready to shout at the end of it, ‘Oh, this was just another Exorcist ripoff.'”
“So we got so much mileage out of this being a female protagonist who suddenly has obstacles that a priest would never have,” he said. “She has to fight the entire patriarchy of the church before even allowed to fight the demon. You know, that’s quite the job application process for which you wouldn’t have had with a male character.”
And on top of that, the film has a very crucial story arc that deals with trauma and shame, and that was very satisfying for Byers as an actor.
“It’s what drew me to the film, to be honest. I think horror is a very fun genre, but as an actor, it’s okay, you can be a scream queen, and I will have fun doing that. But the real meat and potatoes is in the psychological aspects of a human being. And guilt and shame, I think, are something every human being suffers with, and I think self-forgiveness is such a powerful lesson for anyone to learn.”
Prey For The Devil opens in theatres on October 28. Watch the full interview with Jacqueline Byers and Daniel Stamm above.
Images courtesy Lionsgate.
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