I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with writing duo Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland about their latest flick, the Eli Roth produced possession themed The Last Exorcism. In The Last Exorcism (formerly Cotton) a preacher scamming his way through the ministry (while being followed by a documentary film crew) is forced to confront what may very well be his first 'real' possession. I chatted with The Last Exorcism writers Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland about the character they've created in Cotton Marcus and what it's like writing a slow burn, reality style horror flick for audiences today. Hit the jump for the full interview.
What can you tell us about the story of The Last Exorcism?
Andrew: It's about a man of the cloth named Cotton Marcus He's in it for the money, he has a wife and kid to support, it's a family business, his parents made him preach when he was a kid, but he never really believed any of it. Part of his work is doing faith healings and exorcisms and he's invited a documentary film crew to film him before he gets out of the business and goes into the secular world, which he feels he can live with a lot better. He gets a letter from a farmer saying his daughter is possessed by the devil, and he invites the film crew to follow him, and film him basically fleecing this farmer out of his money by agreeing and saying she's possessed by the devil, and conducting an exorcism. Along the way, things happen that he cannot explain and being a skeptic, he starts to become a believer.
The Last Exorcism was originally called Cotton?
Were you guys behind the name change?
Andew: Well, we didn't do it, if that's what you mean. No, we didn't change the name.
Huck: We didn't change it, we actually had a title called The Ivanwood Exorcisms, because it takes place in this fictional town of Ivanwood. We liked the idea of having the word exorcism in the title. We were fine with the name change.
Are you guys fans of the genre?
Andrew: We enjoy a scary movie.
Are there any possession or reality based films you looked at while writing? I assume there's a specific way the film needs to be written to help guide the reality angle.
Huck: That really guided it because it does have to be shot so specifically and written
so specifically. Blair Witch Project I thought was an incredible movie, it was a very
different animal, as each project is, so I don't think we looked to that specifically. We
had done alot of fake docs in the past, so we were just trying to take our style and put
it in this genre.
Were you guys on set much?
Andrew: We visited the set.
Huck: We were working on other projects simultaneously in New Orleans. So we were
shooting a movie while The Last Exorcism was being shot.
Have you seen the movie?
Andrew: We have.
Did it turn out how you had envisioned while writing? Any surprises?
Andrew: Yeah, there were some surprises. for sure. There were things we didn't know
Huck: Originally we were going to direct the movie. So we had written it with what was in
our head thinking we were going to shoot that. Anytime someone else directs it, they're
going to put their own stamp on it. We're fans of Daniel (Stamm), he really took it to heart and he did his thing. It's not exactly what we would have done, which is normal.
Andrew: But we were very happy with it.
Any other genre projects you're involved in?
Andrew: There are. There's one in particular we're working on called The Other Woman,
with the same team, Eli Roth and Strike Entertainment. It's like Fatal Attraction but
from the point of view of the mistress. A mistress making a documentary about an affair
she's having with a married man. She starts to go crazy and wreaks havoc in his life.
How closely do you guys work with Eli Roth on these projects?
Andrew: Pretty closely I would have to say. He gets very closely involved. He's an
amazing asset to work in the genre with.
Do you think The Last Exorcism will appeal to reality fans and horror fans alike?
Andrew: People who want to see scary movies and are afraid of the devil, are gonna be
scared, because it's very grounded.
Huck: I'm curious to find out what the audience thinks and who's gonna be scared by it,
We wrote something we thought we would be captivated by. We hope people will agree with us.
How visual do things get in the story, is the flick written more subtle and slow burn like The House of the Devil or is it more visceral?
Huck: We wrote it more like The House of the Devil, so it's more of a gradual build, It
seemed to work well with the style, keeping it extremely grounded so the audience gets
sucked into the characters and then have things turn on them in an aggressive sort of way. But we like the slow build, for sure.
Would you want to return with more from Cotton if audiences demanded it?
Huck: Yeah, I love Cotton. I think Cotton is a great character and he could go on more
Do we have a potential horror icon on our hands here?
Huck: I dunno, it's hard to say, you never know with that stuff.
But you'd like to see it happen?
Huck: Oh yeah, sure.
Andrew: We actually pray for failure (laughs)
I would imagine that sometimes you write a character whose journey has a beginning, middle and end. Not wanting it to go any further than that, possibly in someone else’s hands.
Huck: Yeah, but I don't know if it's Cotton, or more of this horror, preacher like world, I
think would be great.
The Last Exorcism will have its premiere in June at the L.A. Film Fest, hitting theaters nationwide August 27th.