Reality television shows can take a wrong turn into horror especially when a demonic possession is involved.
From former reality TV producer Seth Grossman, “Inner Demons” follows an intervention-style reality show crew trying to film a sixteen-year-old girl fighting a drug addiction. However, she was suffering from something even more destructive—a demonic possession. The movie is an inquiry into the truth about her—with symptoms between the disturbing and scary intersection of insanity, addiction and true possession.
The film stars Lara Vosburgh and Morgan McClellan.
Latino-Review was granted an exclusive interview with Grossman to discuss the production of this horror film. We talked about the young actress, the worlds of addiction and demonic possession and even relating the behaviors of hyenas to demons.
“Inner Demons” is playing in select theaters and available on VOD today.
Read the full interview below.
Latino-Review: Tell me on how you were approached for this project and why you were attracted to it.
Seth Grossman: My manager set up a meeting with me to speak with Robin Schorr of Schorr Productions about a scriptment, something between a treatment and a script, called “Untitled Exorcism Intervention.” That was the working title at the time.
So I went there and read the scriptment. I immediately knew I was the person to direct this movie. Not only that I had the experience of directing a horror movie with “The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations,” but also uniquely qualified as I worked as a film producer on the TV show “Intervention.”
So I knew this world. I knew the texture of it. I knew the family dynamics of the characters. I could bring so much to the story.
Latino-Review: This film takes two worlds to collide with each other—one being the drug addiction world and the other being the demonic possession world. Are those two worlds that similar?
Seth Grossman: When I was producing “Intervention,” I often heard addicts and their family members say that the addicts seem like they’re possessed. He wasn’t himself or didn’t seem like himself. So it’s already a very potent metaphor for addiction. We took it to a logical conclusion of what if somebody if somebody feels like they’re possessed and that’s why they’re using drugs.
Latino-Review: Did you have to do any extra research for this film?
Seth Grossman: I already spent a year immersed in the world of addiction. The research I did was mostly with Catholicism, exorcism and history of demonic possession.
Latino-Review: And what did you learn?
Seth Grossman: I’ve learned that exorcism had been around for hundreds of years or if not thousands of years. Initially, I think it was a folk treatment for mental illness. Earlier generations didn’t have the vocabulary of mental illness like we have now. They consider it to be magic or demonic possession. It was a ritualistic healing practice. I thought it was interesting that it was a tradition of treating things that people believed it to be demonic possession.
I also found out that there was exorcism in all kinds of different cultures. It’s from traditional African cultures to Native American religions and even Judaism has prayers for exorcism. This is in addition to the more familiar catholic exorcism that we’ve seen in movies for the last fifty years or so.
Latino-Review: Speaking of exorcism movies, you did this film in a documentary style. There are a lot of documentary films and exorcism films. What makes “Inner Demons” different from those movies?
Seth Grossman: Right. I think “Inner Demons” is the first of these kinds of movies to fully investigate the relationship between reality filmmakers and their subjects. It contributes to some of the dangers people feel in the story. That’s why this movie had to be, not necessarily a found footage, but more of a documentary style or reality TV style of filming. [We have] Jason, the newbie production assistant, buys into the illusion of the person who is appearing on camera.
Latino-Review: How did this translate to the overall production?
Seth Grossman: We definitely had reality TV aesthetics. We worked with RED cameras, but we were using only half of the digital sensors shooting in 2K. We put zoom lenses on the cameras to get the live shot to the close up to create the feel of documentary and reality TV.
We did a lot of improvisation in both rehearsal and on set. We kept things loose in terms of the blocking as it needs to be kept naturalistic as possible. We wanted to give it the feel that things were unfolding and the cameras catching right as it happens or the second after it happens.
Latino-Review: I did notice that the entire movie the actors seem like they’re holding on to the cameras. How did you pull that off? Obviously the talent was holding on to the cameras.
Seth Grossman: No, not at all. Our guy, Chapin Hall, was handling the cameras the entire time. We would give the actors basically prop cameras that they held and seem like they were filming. Then we would do coverage from the POV from the camera they would be holding. We wanted everything to feel like it could’ve been captured in the moment, but we weren’t married to the idea in terms of plausibility of our coverage. We wanted to really tell a good story and have people forget the reality of the film crew filming portions of it.
Latino-Review: Tell me about the main actress, Lara Vosburgh. How did you recruit her since she’s fairly new to the business?
Seth Grossman: She is. We had a great casting director named Ricki Maslar. She really had her work cut out for her. We were working with non-union actors. Normally I would love to work with SAG actors and I’m married to a SAG actress. It’s great when you have that ability. Due to our budgetary constraints and breakneck schedule of fourteen days of shooting, it had to work with non-union actors unfortunately.
Lara was submitted by her management company. She is an experienced actress in Israel and in a TV show. She didn’t have a lot here in the United States. This is her first US role. The great thing about Lara is that she was raised by an American father and Israeli mother. She speaks without an accent in the movie. She has this natural gift of her character and being in the moment. There wasn’t a false note with Lara. She sometimes makes decisions on things I wanted to make adjustments on. Instinctually, it never seem like she was acting.
I think I did about three rounds of auditions with her before I made the decision that she was definitely our Carson. She went for it and she didn’t hold back. I was thankful for that.
Latino-Review: So how did you prepare her for this? This is such a difficult film especially for a first time movie actress?
Seth Grossman: There were a few layers of preparation for this role. First thing we did was the feeling of being a drug addict. Lara attended some open meetings of narcotics anonymous to observe some of the behaviors of people who recently recovered and hear their stories on what it was like. She watched a lot of episodes of “Intervention,” which I had on hand for her. And she even watched other documentaries about addiction.
After she got the addiction elements down, then we started working on the demon. I worked with an acting teacher named Catlin Adams. She worked on Ellen Burstyn, who worked with me in “The Elephant King.” Catlin is not only an acting teacher, but she is also a coach. She, I and Lara got together at her house. We had a session where we started to develop certain demented behaviors for the demon. We based a lot of the demonic behavior, movement and internal work on hyenas.
Hyenas are the alpha animals in an attack. That was really helpful to work on demon with that as a guide. So we started practicing themes in transformations and behaviors with hyenas. And Lara got it. From there, it was just a matter of bringing in her scene partners and making sure that everything was working on set. Those were the two big challenges.
It was easy for her to play the nice innocent Carson from before her addiction and possession began. The addiction and demonic possession were the things we really focused on.
Latino-Review: Wow. I never realized the demonic possessions are really like the behaviors of hyenas.
Seth Grossman: Yeah, that is interesting.
Latino-Review: Let me wrap this up with you, Seth. Could you discuss on some of the upcoming projects for yourself?
Seth Grossman: I have a script called “Rock Bottom” that I’ve been working on a few months. It’s another story set in a world of addiction and a crime drama. It’s starting to go out for cast. I’m very excited about it and hoping to shoot it this winter. It’s not a horror film, but it definitely has elements of the thriller genre with it. It’s more about two characters trying to solve a crime while going through the challenges of recovery.
Latino-Review: I always I like to end it with a fun question. What is your favorite possession movie and why?
Seth Grossman: I would have to say “The Exorcist.” It was the movie that I saw when I prepared to make my first movie and it had Ellen Burstyn in it. I remembered we were going to make an offer to Ellen, so I was watching all of her work like “The King of Marvin Gardens” and “The Last Picture Show.” When I watched “The Exorcist,” I remembered calling her to say that “you’re the scariest thing in this movie.” It was the way on how she was so protective of her daughter as the she was being treated at the hospital. It was just terrifying. That movie was great in terms of the performances and broad scope of it. I just love “The Exorcist.”
Latino-Review: Thank you for this conversation. Hopefully we’ll get to this again in your next film.
Seth Grossman: I certainly hope so. Nice talking with you.
“Inner Demons” is currently available on VOD and is showing in select theaters.