Miles Doleac wrote, directed, and starred in Demons, a psychological thriller-horror from Uncork’d.
Demons synopsis: Celebrated fiction writer and former priest, Colin Hampstead, and his wife, Kayleigh, are tormented by the ghost of her late sister, as the details of her grisly death are slowly uncovered.
Read my review of Demons here.
Talking with Miles Doleac
Do you have to be a fan of horror– particularly these types of horror films – to direct one?
Miles Doleac: I think the subject matter, or some element of it, whatever the genre, needs to resonate in some way if you’re to be the most effective steward of it. You have to be able to identify with it at some level. As a genre, horror is vast. I’m not sure everyone recognizes that fact. The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Alien, The Shining, Get Out, even a film like Marathon Man … they’re all horror films, really, but they’re quite different from one another in so many ways. For me, horror is all about psychology. If something is disturbing psychologically, it will elicit a visceral, physical reaction as well. Oftentimes the horror of what you don’t see or know is more profound, which why the original Jaws and Alien films work so well. Good horror gets in your head and bangs around in there. I’m a fan of any film that achieves that.
And what about exorcist movies? A fan?
Miles Doleac: I love The Exorcist and I even enjoyed the new television version to a large extent. Ben Daniels is terrific in it. Exorcism of Emily Rose has a great creep factor and a strong cast. I’m fascinated with religion and various kinds of religious experience and I teach Latin, so, yeah, I’d say the sub-genre is right up my alley.
It’s the subgenre you just can’t kill! Why do you think that is?
Miles Doleac: It’s about that quintessential struggle between good and evil for the very soul of humankind, right? It probes our deepest, most complicated preoccupations. Who are we in the cosmic scheme? Are we on our own or are we being guided or compelled by forces outside ourselves? Are we primarily good or evil? Is there something spiritual and immortal inhabiting our corporeal flesh? If God exists, can he/she be both all good and all powerful at the same time? These are questions humanity has been asking since time immemorial and exorcism stories just cut right to the heart of them.
What movies would you say Demons is alike?
Miles Doleac: It certainly has elements of popular exorcism films, the two I mentioned above included (The Exorcist and Exorcism of Emily Rose), but I think it also, at times, feels a little like The Big Chill or The Anniversary Party, films that are, of course, from an entirely different genre. I’ve been told it has some David Lynch-type moments, maybe some Kubrickian moments. All of these are films and filmmakers that I admire, so their influence is certainly there. I’m hopeful that the film’s combination of horror and domestic drama makes it a little special, leads it to stand out from the herd a bit.
Did you go the practical route for effects or CGI?
Miles Doleac: Mostly practical. When you’re working with a budget like ours, you have to go practical whenever possible. There are some digital effects here and there though from some very talented folks.
Did you write Colin for yourself? Where does Colin end and Miles begin?
Miles Doleac: I did. The dual timelines in the film present two versions of Colin. I think the Colin in the past (let’s call it the “exorcism” timeline) is more like me. In the present-day timeline, Colin seems to have found a kind of inner calm that I don’t really possess. I think he’s accepted the fact that there are forces beyond his control. It took a profound tragedy for him to arrive at that peace, but he’s pretty steady now. I spend a lot of my time in a state of mild panic, always moving, always needing to be doing something, creating something. Colin has reached that point where he allows himself to just “be” I think. Maybe he’s who I aspire to be.
Did you look into exorcism stories while researching this one?
Miles Doleac: I have a PhD in Ancient History, so I was somewhat familiar with the history of exorcism, but I did review the Church’s policies on the rite in some detail when I was writing the script. Formal exorcism is a rather complicated matter for the Church nowadays. It’s gone a bit underground, but the Church can’t afford to abandon the practice fully. I mean the Jesus Movement has a rich exorcism tradition. There’s a really interesting tension there.
Have your favorite horror films influenced the kind of movies you like to do?
Miles Doleac: Absolutely. Every film I write, I can point to the influence of two or three films that, consciously or no, informed the creative process in some way. You write what moves you, what you love, what you know, at least most commonly. My three features (The Historian, The Hollow, Demons) appear very different on the surface, but, if you look closely, I think you’ll find themes and motifs that recur in all. I never really knew I wanted to write a horror film until I sat down with Demons, but as I wrote it, and as I re-watched, or watched for the first time, other horror films to see what they were doing, I realized just how rich the genre is. It’s a sandbox I could play in for a while for sure.
**Interview materials provided by October Coast**