Demonic Explained: Neill Blomkamp's Big Idea for the Vatican’s Exorcism Task Force - VRGyani News and Media

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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Demonic Explained: Neill Blomkamp's Big Idea for the Vatican’s Exorcism Task Force

[Editor's note: The following contains spoilers for Demonic.]Neill Blomkamp’s latest, Demonic, is largely a personal exploitation of one woman’s relationship with her estranged mother (Nathalie Boltt). But, when you zoom out a bit, there’s a mighty fascinating operation pulling the strings. Initially, Carly (Carly Pope) assumes Michael (Michael J. Rogers) and Daniel (Terry Chen) are affiliated with a medical establishment researching her mother’s condition when, in fact, they are agents of the Vatican trying to track down and exorcise demons.

It’s an interesting scenario that cracks the door open to endless story possibilities for covering how different Vatican outfits tackle their demon-hunting missions. Therapol in Demonic is only one location. Are there others throughout the world? Do they all use this virtual reality technology or is that Therapol-specific?

With Demonic now available to rent and catch in theaters, Blomkamp joined us for an episode of Collider’s The Witching Hour. A good chunk or the conversation is a spoiler-free chat about his filmography and experience making Demonic, but towards the end, we did dig into spoiler-filled questions about what’s really going on here.

When asked about the Vatican’s operation beyond Therapol, Blomkamp revealed that he’s actually had the idea for this scenario in his back pocket for a few years now and, originally, he was going to tackle it in a far bigger way. He explained:

“The Vatican idea, which I had for a few years before, was much bigger in scale than a hilariously smaller horror film. It’s kind of cool that it’s in this horror film, actually. I’m stoked. But if you were to make other films at a larger scale, the original concept was if demonic possession is real and if the Vatican and the Catholic Church goes about training priests on how to exorcise demons, then could mass murderers in history have been attributed to demonic possession? So, could you have dictators or global level genocidal events be the result of a demonic possession and if that was the case, how would the Vatican go up against a dictator and their army? So it was a much larger sort of borderline geopolitical concept, and so it’s scaled down for this in the sense that they’re buying the company that specializes in medical virtual reality because it would be an interesting way to sniff out who is possessed and who isn’t actually possessed. So I would actually be really interested in making other films that scale up in terms of production size to see what else the Vatican is in fact doing.”

Blomkamp also took a moment to highlight the similarities between how the Vatican forces featured in Demonic are similar to exorcists we've see in other films, and also where he decided to draw the line between that and the militarized quality of this operation:

“What I was thinking is, you don’t use any of those skills or those weapons in exorcising a demon. That would be something that would be much more traditional. The Vatican actually offers courses in real life to priests to train them on how to be exorcists, because the assumption is that demons are in fact real. So the way that you would deal with the actual demon would be far more like what we’ve seen in demonic possession movies before, with crosses and priests. But, if it skips bodies, if it’s a physical body that you have to try and neutralize in order to try to do an exorcism, then it’s a physical danger to you. So my thinking was the patient or the person who was possessed would be cuffed and really strapped down in a way that the priest can do what they need to do, but if it’s skipping bodies in a way that’s immaterial and it’s taking other forms, like Azazel in the Denzel Washington film, then you have a serious issue on your hands, right? And that’s where the militaristic element comes in.”

As for the demonic entity itself, Blomkamp didn’t have any specific sources of inspiration to pinpoint, but did recall a few things that were on his mind while developing the movie. He began:

“What I think happened is I was just in the pandemic, and then to do with these topics -- I was reading a lot about the plague in the Middle Ages and the plague masks that they would wear, and I think that that has a beak-like quality that may have just sort of morphed neurologically into the idea of a crow and a raven. And I’m also interested in crows and ravens, and I have an African Grey parrot.”

RELATED: Neill Blomkamp's 'Demonic' Trailer Reveals a Twisted Sci-Fi Horror MovieWhen it came time to bring those ideas to life on screen in demon form, Blomkamp turned to concept artist, Eve Ventrue. Here’s what happed after Blomkamp gave Ventrue the script with the description of his demon:

“I gave Eve the write-up and I also gave her some references of not only black crow and raven feathers, but also very coarse, sh*tty goat and wool hair, like hairs as well. And it was sort of a combination of those. So the surface would be exposed bone and ribs, like black bones and ribs, with these hairs and these feathers, and then the general kind of avian approach to the beak. She sent back one image that was the easiest concept design process I’ve ever done in my life. She just sent back the image basically that was like, I want that exact thing in the movie. Then I gave that to Werner Pretorius' company, Amazing Ape, and they built a seven foot 1980s monster suit with an animatronic beak.”

While Demonic does include sequences with the physical suit, Blomkamp emphasized the uniqueness of putting a suit like that through the volumetric capture process for other beats in the film. Here’s how he put it:

“We also used that suit in the volumetric capture stuff, which is incredibly strange conceptionally in visual effects. Because everything now is a computer generated monster. So it’s like, ‘Oh, I wish I could see the occasional suit-based real monster. That would be cool,’ like feels a little bit more like Nightmare on Elm street or something, but people always build them in CG. So this idea of building it physically and then digitizing it into CG is just so backwards and bizarre, but that’s what happens in the simulation sequences. She’s seeing a digital representation of a physical suit performer in a physical suit.”

Blomkamp certainly puts his human characters through the wringer in Demonic, but his demon is also suffering from a form of mental and emotional frustration, too:

“I think that the demon is essentially going kind of crazy itself, because it drove the meat vessel that it was inside of hard enough that it gave it a brain injury that paralyzed it. It’s host is paralyzed, so I think it’s going absolutely insane running around in the inside of her mind and the images that it keeps seeing inside of her mind, if it sifts through her memories, are mostly related to this girl, which is now a new interesting target for it. So it’s manipulating the doctors to make it bring a subject that it can skip to that it’s now interested in, which is her. It can pick anyone. It’s interested in her. And because it’s in control of the mother’s mind, it’s not letting the doctors access her in a way that they’re comfortable with, which makes them start thinking that she is in fact possessed and the other 99 patients at Therapol are not, so then they persuade the daughter to come in.”

Looking for even more from Blomkamp? Be sure to catch our full chat with the Demonic director in the video at the top of this article or in podcast form below:

KEEP READING: 'Fear Street' Star Ashley Zukerman Breaks It All Down, From '1994' to '1666' & What Makes Nick Goode Tick



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