Daniel Stamm is the director of the new documentary style horror film “The Last Exorcism”. The film opened at number 1 with over $21 million in its first weekend. Daniel’s career is going to blow up real fast due to this enormous success of the film. Moviehole’s Mike Gencarelli had a chance to talk with Daniel to discuss the film and his passion for filmmaking.
How did you get attached to direct “The Last Exorcism”?
Originally the writers were going to direct it. They had committed to another movie and they had to contractual do that instead. Strike Entertainment and Eli (Roth) were looking for another director. I had made another movie called “A Necessary Death” and it is the same style. It wasn’t horror but it was pseudo-documentary style. We had the won the Audience Award at AFI and they really like it. Eli loved it. They asked me to come by and read the script. I loved it and we were good to go.
What was the hardest part of filming “The Last Exorcism”?
What you are doing with the fake documentary is you are not creating an artificial movie reality. So you don’t have your own rules to play by. You actually have to play by the rules of the real world. That means your audience that lives everyday in the real world is verse to these rules. What look looks right. What sentence seems odd. Suddenly you are up against reality which is a scary thing. If there is one moment in there that feels fake the whole building collapses. That is something you have to shoot for. Sometimes you have thirty takes to get that one genuine sentence that you need. You know you need it so you can’t go on without it. You are at the mercy of realism to happen in your film.
Did you feel pressure following the footsteps of documentary style films like “Paranormal Activity”?
It is almost the opposite. Do I feel any pressure in avoiding it completely? People think handheld and think “Blair Witch”. I think it is such a rich style and I hope it will involve into an actual style and genre and not as gimmick. These movies are so different. If you look at “[REC]“, it is completely different from “Paranormal Activity”. Both which I loved. “[REC]” is such a brilliant exercise in timing and anticipation, though it is not entirely based on its strong performances. “The Last Exorcism” is all about the performances and not about timing. All of these movies are all very different. People react to handheld in the same way and say “Oh it is the same, I have already seen this before”, but it is really not.
Tell me about the ending change, why did that take place?
The question was “How open ended do you want to go?” It’s funny because right now there is a lot of controversy even about the script, that the ending in the film is too open ended. Our original ending was even more open ended. People are saying that they are having problems wrapping their heads around this one. I am glad that we changed it though. To me it is important that it is open ended because we are working with the question of faith vs. atheism. Who am I to give an answer to that in 90 minutes. I cannot give you an answer to that if you gave me two years. So the best I can do is create the best answer I can. [WARNING: SPOILER ALERT] Everyone then needs to leave theater wondering whether or not God will come to Cotton’s help. If we would have shown him die, then obviously God wouldn’t have helped him or forgave him for not believing.
Do you think there will be “The Last Exorcism 2??
No, there are definitely no talks about this yet. People think that producers will follow the money. Strike Entertainment and Eli Roth aren’t that way at all because first and foremost they are storytellers. They are directors themselves. I think unless someone comes up with a brilliant script that needs to be told and that the story of Cotton Marcus wouldn’t be finished without it. I do not think that there is going to be a sequel.
What will your next film be?
I have a very good idea and I couldn’t be more excited about it because it is produced by one of my favorite filmmakers in the world. The problem is they are negotiating the specifics of the deal right now. So I am unable to talk about it at the moment. But it is going to good. It’s scary how big that project is going to be and how different from “The Last Exorcism”. I do not even want to think about it right now because I will just panic. I just want to enjoy “The Last Exorcism” for now and then deal with the next project.