When Adrián García Bogliano was scouting locations for his latest film, a gentleman came up to him in the mountains of Tijuana to warn him about going any further.
“He didn’t know what we were doing there and he told us, ‘You know what? In that cave over there lives the demon.”
That’s how the filmmaker knew he was in the right place for “Here Comes the Devil.” After establishing himself as one of horror’s most exciting new voices with the Argentinean-set chillers “Penumbra” and “Cold Sweat,” the writer/director moved to Mexico to take advantage of a bigger film industry and found the ideal locale for the story he’d been thinking about for a decade. The final product is something that may linger with audiences for just as long, centering on a family that threatens to implode after a couple’s young son and daughter wander off into the hills while their parents sneak off for sex and return behaving erratically.
Full of deliciously lurid imagery, crash zooms and a eerie soundtrack, “Here Comes the Devil” unsettles as it allows one to slip into the increasingly fragile mind of Sol, the concerned mother who becomes convinced her kids’s souls have been infiltrated by Satan. It also once again confirms Bogliano’s skill at upending genre expectations, doing so here by not only broadening the physical circumstances for terror as the filmmaker escapes the small, tight spaces where his previous films were set for the vast, sweltering desert he treads here but also in its psychological implications. In the days leading up to the film’s U.S. theatrical run, Bogliano spoke about filming in Mexico, mixing actors of various backgrounds to get the best results and the film’s arresting opening sequence.
What’s been surprising about your films is how they’ve stuck to the same genre yet take a completely different approach. Is it important to you to keep switching things up?
I love all kinds of genres, but I want to keep working in horror as much as possible and I get bored if I feel like I’m approaching it the same way every time. I made a few movies that were really connected in some stylistic elements, then I decided I wanted to try a completely different thing. [“Here Comes the Devil”] was also the first time that I made a movie in Mexico, [which] has a lot of tradition in supernatural stories, something that Argentina, which is where I was working previously, doesn’t. So I wanted to approach a story that’s completely out of my imagination, but at the same time feels like it works inside Mexican culture.
I’ve heard you’ve carried the idea for the story for at least the past 10 years. Did it evolve much during that time?
It evolved a lot because what I had was actually a very sad story about a couple missing their son and never knowing again where he was. I wrote that idea in Argentina and located it in one of the very few places that has a lot of stories actually about UFOs and strange energies that are in Argentina because as I said, Argentina lacks that kind of mystical, supernatural element. So when I moved to Mexico, I thought it made a lot more sense to do the movie here. Tijuana is a place that has a lot of stories that have to do with the devil and with demons, so I thought it was a great place to try to shoot the movie.
After “Penumbra” and “Cold Sweat,” which drew tension from confined, claustrophobic locations, this story also seemed to offer the opportunity to get out into the open, where you seem to have a lot of fun with zooms and spatial relationships. Was that interesting to place with?
Yes, I made a few movies that were very claustrophobic and this one gave me the chance to work with zooms – that is something I always wanted to work with. But at the same time, we started to see what kind of equipment we could have for the movie and when we had two cameras with these very old lenses, it made a lot of sense to try to keep that look to the movie. I don’t like to make winks to the audience in terms of “Oh, this looks like a ’70s movie, there is this grindhouse style…” or something like that. But I do like to have a feel like you’re watching an old movie.
There’s a lot of visual elements that I love from films of that age, so we had zoom lenses and also a lot of camera filters from the ’70s that are the type of filters that Brian DePalma used in “Carrie.” With those filters, we did a lot of work that looks like post-production and it had a lot of color correction in post-production, but everything you see we shot it with kaleidoscopic filters on the set. I think it’s awesome and I don’t know why people don’t use that anymore, so we wanted to try that.
But going back to the idea of the zooms, we wanted to use that because there’s an idea that this entity is calling the two parents. All those zooms to me mean that there’s something that’s driving those characters and that’s why at the end of the movie I use this montage of things that we already saw during the movie, [because] everything that happens drives the characters to this place.
I was surprised to learn that Laura Caro hadn’t acted before and Francisco Barreiro considered this his first adult role, so what made you think that these two could play convincing parents?
I always like to create a contest in my movies as much as I can, trying to grab actors from as many different places as I can – [mixing] non-actors with very professional actors, people who have very long careers in theater [with people] who have very established careers in more serious films and people who come more from TV. “Penumbra” is probably the film that has the widest spectrum of that. We have musicians, soap opera actors, independent film actors. It’s amazing to put all these people together to work because they all are going to give you something different and at the same time, they’re going to be motivated by the other one and try to do their best.
In this case, I was trying to do something like that. Everyone except Francisco were all from Tijuana and none of them had a lot of experience with acting on film. There’s a couple of them that are very experienced actors from theater, but then I couldn’t find the right person to play the character of Sol until I found Laura. She didn’t have experience acting, but she had a lot of experience in front of cameras because she’s a singer and participated in this very big reality show on one of the two biggest TV stations from here in Mexico, so she had that kind of confidence to be in front of the camera. Also, the way she sings, she shows a lot of different emotions and energy, so I thought that she was capable of transmitting that energy into the camera, the only thing is that the way she found those emotions, it’s completely different from what an actor does. In the case of Francisco, he never played a more adult character, but he’s one of the greatest actors of his generation, so I was completely sure that he could bring something really interesting.
For my last question, let me ask about the opening scene, which starts with a bang in every imaginable sense that echoes throughout the film. While I wouldn’t want to spoil it, was that a starting point or did you work backwards towards it?
Yeah, I came with that idea initially. I love that scene. I think that a lot of people misunderstand that scene, which is great because I love films that have different interpretations. For many years, I had that scene in my mind. It’s an homage to an Italian movie that I love called “Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave [Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key]” and I always thought that to open a movie with a couple having sex. In this case, I thought that was great because that’s what the film is about. It’s not about horror. It’s not about supernatural elements. It’s about sex and sexual repression. And I thought it was a great way to make a statement. The scene links to a lot of things that happen in the movie, but it’s in such a subtle way that not many people get it, but I was convinced that it was a very strong way to get the attention of the audience and make them wonder what the hell is going on.”
“Here Comes the Devil” opens on December 13th in Los Angeles at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas and in New York at Cinema Village and also will be available on demand and on iTunes.