J.M Stelly, writer-director of the new supernatural thriller “The Demonologist” (on VOD in January), was introduced to horror films by his mother – who let him watch John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween” as a kid. Later, after becoming even more fascinated by the horror genre, not to mention the determination to make movies himself, Steely put pen to paper on his own projects. His latest is a chiller about a detective (Brian Krause) who, while investigating a series of brutal slayings, comes upon a cult that are determined to bring forth the 4 King Demons of Hell.

Stelly recently told us how he shot a movie in just ten days.

Script, stories, and characters

Meagan Meehan (MM): Can you please tell us how you got your start in the filmmaking game, Stelly?

J.M. Stelly (JMS): I got into being serious about film making back into 2009. I grew tired of not seeing films that I wanted to see and that concept started as a child. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a film maker. I remember my mother showing me ‘’Halloween’’ when I was eight. It was the made for television cut. I remember being scared but intrigued. Carpenter has always held a place in my heart since then and I began studying his films as well Kubrick and Barker. What did they do to make you feel a way that drew you in no matter how uncomfortable you got with the scenario.

I knew that when I started making films, I wanted to feel more suspenseful than scary. Terror is far more real than just out right horror. When I made my first film, Within Madness, I wanted to play in the terror realm but I wanted to do it my way. So, I met with my friend Chico Garcia who was working with me at the time at Apple, and we decided to try and make a movie in one weekend, with no script, just an idea and let the actors play on that.

I had seen the Ricardo Lopez tapes and instantly I said, this is what we can base it off of. A few months later, I saw this excellent new actor Matt Story portray John Merrick in an adaptation of “The Elephant Man” and I said, that’s guy. So, I met with Matt, pitched him the idea and we were off and running. There was an outline and a story, but he filled in the dialogue when given the scenario.

Same with Kaci who played the female victim. The movie sat for years until I came up with the idea of adding the scenes of bondage and black and white footage. It’s meant to give you the sense of what happens when a person loses themselves to sociopathic behavior. I believe as a director, a writer, film maker, musician and artist, that experimenting is super important and that’s what drives me forward.

MM: If this film is anything to go by, we’ve got a new hero in the making in. Was that the intention? A character that could possibly launch a franchise?

JMS: Damien wasn’t originally conceived as a hero. In fact, he was anything but a hero. The original script took place during the late 1800’s.

Damien was a doctor pioneering psychological treatment and had a severe opiate addiction. He was torn apart as a human and his past. He used drugs to block his memories and his family dealings in the occult so when it all came to a head, Damien became what he was born to become. In fact, in the original first few drafts, there was very little mystic heroics. It developed into that over time. When it came time to do the movie, I had to be realistic about the budget so I took that history from the original script, passed it down to one of his ancestors in the timeline and created a whole new story for Damien in the present day. After sitting with the character long enough he could seem like a hero and to some degree he is but what I have planned for Damien is a hard road.

He’s not a comic book hero. He’s a man that is now dealing with a reality that will take a toll on him and I really want to explore where that goes. The neutral line between what’s good and evil.

MM: Who – in terms of similar characters– did you base the character on?

JMS: Damien is actually inspired by Harry D’Amour from “Lord of Illusions” and Mills from “Seven”. His name actually wasn’t taken from “Omen” even though it could be mistaken for that and despite popular belief, he wasn’t based off of Constantine. In fact, aside from the movie, I’ve never read the comics nor have I seen the television show. I’ve always loved “Lord of Illusions” and “Seven”. Having worked around crime scenes, I always loved a good crime investigation story and those Movies had that sort of film noir vibe that crime investigations have.

I wanted that for Damien. A rough cop who’s seen it all but nothing like this. It allows for the idea of logic and rationale to come into play against the supernatural world. Being a Nihilistic Satanist myself, I live off the idea of logic and rationale first. That men and women do evil because we are programmed that way. So, when the supernatural is introduced it departs from the criminal investigative mind that Mills inspired and goes to the more D’Amour side where he’s still logical but knows that darkness awaits us all.

MM: When you were writing the script, did you have anyone in mind for the role? How did Brian Krause get involved?

JMS: My original choice was actually Jared Bankens who plays Ian.

Jared is such an amazing actor and close personal friend. The man just has it but once Brian got cast, Jared got the role of Ian and I think it actually worked out better, because Jared is the arch nemesis and he’s got a unique look that sets him apart from Brian. Brian actually got involved through our producer Justin Jones. They were friends and Justin pitched him the idea and he agreed to do it. At first, I was unsure because to be honest I couldn’t remember who he was. Once I saw his body of work, my memory triggered. I was still unsure. He was older than I had imagined the character but then I talked to him and got to know him and spit fire about the character and instantly it worked. I was super happy about it and I can’t imagine the film or the character without him.

MM: How was he to work with? I imagine he has some fun stories from his “Charmed” days?

JMS: He’s amazing. He’s super professional and fun at the same time. He truly is one of the most amazing people I know and has become a close and personal friend. Like a brother at this point and yes, the man has some stories lol. I was more excited about hearing stories from the set of “Sleepwalkers” because I’m a huge Mick Garris fan. That was awesome to hear how that movie got made.

Visual effects, audiences and films

MM: How did you handle the special and visual effects?

JMS: When it came to the Special Effects, I brought in William Spataro and Jonny Bullard, two friends of mine who I had worked with previously on a music video for the supergroup “Down”.

William and I sat down and talked many times about the look of the demons. The dude just gets my brain…. which is scary if you think about it lol. Abatu I knew I wanted him to be more bat like where as Paimon I wanted to be unique. Paimon’s makeup is actually a combination of a zombie appliance and horns with modifications. Terric was a bit rough. The prosthetic we bought melted, so they had to actually make him out of scar transfers and the extra Paimon prosthetic we had left over. It actually turned out better that way. Since I’ve worked with these guys before I knew how long appliances took to apply and what they needed. It was hot and hard on them but those two mixed with a couple other artists to help always deliver the best.

I couldn’t ask for better from the amazing artistry they bring to the table.

When it came to the visual effects I brought my friend Kolby Kember. Kolby has years of experience under his belt and he brought some fantastic ideas to the table on how to achieve what we needed. Let’s face it. It’s a low budget feature. They had 4 weeks to get 65 VFX shots completed and most of the elements were fire. That’s hard to do because it’s a natural element but they did exactly what I needed them to do in a very little amount of time. My worry is always VFX. I’m a practical guy but when you marry the two, you can get some great results and in this film we did. We set the stage and everyone on both teams really brought their A game to the table and their support and for that I am forever grateful.

MM: Is there a moment in the film you’re particularly proud of?

JMS: I’m proud of it as a whole. We were up against so much. Ten days, man. Ten days to shoot 105 pages or so. My producer Ryan and I as well as our crew beat the odds with this one and grew stronger because of it. I watch the movie and remember what it was like. The hard times and good times and more less just proud that we accomplished something special. I gained a family and hope that we can once again come together to explore this mythology deeper.

MM: And why should audiences check out “The Demonologist”?

JMS: Because I want audiences to be a part of something special with all of us that really worked hard on this film. I don’t expect everyone to like it.

I’ve read comments by people online after seeing the trailer calling it trash or a rip off. Everyone is entitled to their opinion even if that opinion is based off of a jaded sense of knowing what to expect. The reality is, love it or hate it, this movie is here and it’s a fresh take on an old mythos, so sit back and enjoy the ride. I more than anyone am super appreciative of anyone who gives their time to my art. So in advance, thank you for watching the film and supporting a small group of creative minds who wanted to give you something truly unique.

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