Discussing Horror, THE PACT, and AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR With Director Nicholas McCarthy
By Clarke Wolfe on August 8, 2014
At the Devil’s Door, the follow up feature film to writer/director Nicholas McCarthy’s well-received genre debut The Pact, is the story of three women connected by a powerful sinister force. Though At the Devil’s Door is a separate film, it shares a lot in common with its successful predecessor. Nerdist spoke with McCarthy about all things horror including making The Pact and At the Devil’s Door so close together, female protagonists in genre films, and why the Devil is all the rage.
To fans of McCarthy’s, At the Devil’s Door will feel at the very least familiar. This is no accident, according to the writer/ director, as he explained his process for coming up with new ideas. McCarthy elaborated by saying, “[The similarity] was intentional in that when I write, I write kind of compulsively and just try to feel out something that I want to see in a movie. I started writing At the Devil’s Door within weeks of premiering The Pact and I think between myself and my core collaborators on that film, there was some unfinished business that we wanted to take care of. I think since the two films were made so close together with many of the same creative team, there’s just this short hand that had developed and it felt right to keep at some of those same images and ideas… So the two films kind of end up in some ways being a companion piece to one another. They’re sisters.”
Speaking of sisters, it is no secret that McCarthy’s last two films have been predominately focused on female characters. I asked McCarthy if this was something he did intentionally. He replied, “So many of my favorite horror films have been about women. I mean, so many of the great horror movies are concerned with women. Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby and even though The Exorcist is kind of a chamber piece and has a couple of great, strong male characters, I always respond to Ellen Burstyn’s character in that movie as well as Regan. It wasn’t a conscious decision and in either of these films to make them so heavily ‘girl power’ and I think at some point when we were editing At the Devil’s Door I realized that I had done the thing I did in my first movie which is, essentially make a movie all about women and the only men who appear in it are these, kind of, idiots [laughs] or bastards, you know? But I confess, I don’t really know where it comes from. But that said, I was just having a conversation with someone about male centric horror films and I was trying to think of one. … Is there a horror movie about a man that you love?”
We chatted for a bit about Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes and John Carpenter’s The Thing and McCarthy suggested that while those are great horror entries, perhaps they’re more action-horror films. When I offered up Richard Donner’s The Omen, another genre film about the Devil, McCarthy mentioned that he had recently re-watched the Gregory Peck classic in preparation for another project. He offered this insight, “When I watched The Omen again I kind of wanted it to be about Lee Remick’s character and not Gregory Peck, but that’s another good one. And when I had this conversation on ‘men in horror,’ the guy I was talking to said recently Sinister was the one that did it but it is a rarity.” I couldn’t help but agree.
Despite having penned At the Devil’s Door back in 2012, the film seems to be premiering around the time of an influx of Satanic themed films. Why does he think the Devil is so popular and why did he personally feel compelled to tell this kind of story? Said McCarthy, ”Hollywood of course goes in these cycles and I’m convinced it’s because of the age of the executives that cycle through. The movies that they have as their touchstones and somehow demonic possession became a thing and now its not a thing anymore. For me, I was raised Catholic and seeing The Exorcist was an incredibly upsetting experience for me as a kid and like so many others was kind of a rite of passage and a movie that I revisit every few years and try to reconcile myself with. I believed when I was a kid that the Devil was real and that the Devil could come for me. It took me a long time to shake that and I have to say, and I’m not just being sensational, I’m not much of a believer in anything mystic now but the process of making this movie has made me a little more of a bleiver. It was a very hard movie to make and a lot of strange things happened which made me feel like I never want to make a movie about the Devil ever again because I feel like I’m kind of messing with that business…”
At the Devil’s Door, starring Naya Rivera, Ashley Rickards and Catalina Sandino Moreno, and directed by Nicholas McCarthy is available on VOD Friday, August 8 and hits select theaters on Friday, September 12.