Devil’s Whisper is exactly the movie you think it is. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, a teen finds a creepy old artifact which unleashes a demon that possesses them and endangers their family. While this may sound pretty cut and dry on paper, in practice Devil’s Whisper is surprisingly charming. Luca Oriel (Alex) and Rick Ravanello (Father Cutler) deliver powerhouse performances full of depth, range, and empathy.
Our lead’s family has a convincing and playful family dynamic, the mix of cultures delivering an effortless bilingual experience. It’s a detail that many other films wouldn’t have even thought to include, yet it breathes life into setup and tension into the climax due to the realism and strength of the family’s bond. Director Adam Ripp carves tension into the margins and, for the most part, refrains from cheap shocks.
Stylistically, Devil’s Whisper feels very old school in its approach to horror and this vibe only serves to bolster the impact of the story and its characters. However, despite the retro slow-burn flavor, there are certainly fresh ideas to be found. For example, there’s a creature that can only be seen in the darkness as the beam of a flashlight shows the wall behind it instead of illuminating the monster. Additionally, it was fascinating to see a horror film where both religion and science were held up with equal levels of respect and validity!
Despite the aforementioned praise, Devil’s Whisper does indeed have its missteps. Not all the performances land; several flat secondary characters suck the life out of every scene they share. The measured pace of the built tension is shattered in several scenes when restraint in the editing bay goes out of the window and we’re treated with ill-advised close-ups of the generic looking monster screaming or shaking its head. While the demon looks decent from afar, up close it’s more silly-looking than fear inducing; less would surely have been more.
Devil’s Whisper is certainly a mixed bag. It can be frustrating at times, but overall it has a winning sense of heart and sincerity that allows it to stand above its peers with pride. It may be a low budget bag of used tricks, but those are executed by a magician with a smile in his eyes and a song in his heart. This singular difference makes the film worth checking out. The execution may not stay with you for long after viewing, but the characters and concepts presented most certainly will.
The cast covers a wide range of ages when it comes to the actors, did you find yourself changing your directorial approach for each person or did you keep it consistent across the board?
The way each actor approaches their craft, regardless of age, is different. My goal is to get the very best performance from all of my actors. To achieve this my directorial approach differs from actor to actor. The one thing that remains consistent is I must earn each actor's trust.
Was the creature a practical or digital creation? Why did you feel it best to choose this method?
The creature was a combination of a practical suit and digital visual effects. We shot the actor wearing the demon suit against green screen and composited him into each scene. We then used digital visual effects to augment his appearance in the film: hollowing out his eyes and changing them into black empty sockets, altering the shape of his body, adding a heat wave and hellish particles to surround the demon. I felt this method was the very best approach based on my creative vision for the creature balanced with the practical limitations of our budget and schedule.
What inspired you to write this story?
Several years ago a close friend of mine shared a very personal story with me... Years before he had been plagued with recurring nightmares. Intense therapy helped him to realize that his nightmares were connected to repressed memories... horrible memories of being physically abused by his grandfather when he was a child. He confronted his parents about this deep dark secret and it ripped his family apart. The more he talked about what happened to him, the better it made him feel, but the more it hurt everyone around him. And then over time the less he talked about it, allowing people to "forget," the more it tore him apart inside. Ultimately he had to make a choice... keep the "family secret" alive or pretend it never happened. I have many friends who had been through similar experiences of abuse and I wanted to find a way to tell this story but not in a literal sense. I've been a huge fan of horror films since I was 8 years old when I saw THE EXORCIST for the first time on Z Channel. I felt that placing a story about repressed memories and childhood trauma within the context of a horror film would be the best way for me to express the ideas and feelings I have about this subject matter.
The film has a very respectful tone when it comes to both religion and science, was this informed by your experiences personally or was it something that naturally arose from the narrative?
As a filmmaker I feel that it's my obligation to be as honest and realistic as possible within the context of the story I'm telling. I'm a white Jewish director and with Devil's Whisper I'm telling a story about a Latino American Catholic family. From praying before a meal and speaking both Spanish and English at home to casting Latino American actors who could bring their personal experiences to the film, it was incredibly important to me to get the Duran's family dynamic just right.
What, to you, are the most crucial benefits of being both the writer and director of a film?
On a film the writer never gets the final word, the director does. So being both the writer and director gives my writer side that rare opportunity to have the final word. But that has the potential to create a conflict of interest because the writer often times is fighting to protect their script while it's the director's job to challenge the script. For me the script is never finished and can always be improved upon whether that's in pre-production, production or even in post... sometimes especially in post.
In what ways does juggling both writing and direction provide more stress than you perhaps anticipated?
It doesn't provide more stress but it does give me less time to sleep.
Demons, zombies, monsters, sharks, vampires, taxes, etc… What terrifying genre-fixture in horror really frightens you?
Unidentified noises in the dark aka UNITD.
Do you think you’ll make a follow-up movie to Devil’s Whisper?
That all depends upon the level of success we have with the film. But I do have some ideas...
Will your next film also be a fright-flick or do you think you’ll tell a story in a different genre next time?
I have a few scripts I'm developing that fall into the horror and psychological thriller genres. But my next film is a contemporary political thriller that has one foot firmly planted in the 1970s.
If you were stranded on an island what five items would you want with you?
Machete, knife, spear, wind-up flashlight, Ultimate Survival Guide book.
If you had a super power what would it be?
The power to heal myself and others.
If you could meet anyone in history who would it be?
Myself in 1985.
Josh Evans - Is a matte painter by day and filmmaker by night. You can follow his studio, Hungry Creature Productions, via any social media platform or their website: www.thehungrycreatures.com