After surviving a rough upbringing that included the loss of her mother and abuse at the hands of her father, Ashley (Sydney Sweeny) goes to live with her aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth) in hopes of finding some normalcy. Fate is against her, however, as she soon rekindles an old friendship with neighbor Hannah (Madison Lintz) who is a paranormal, occult hobbyist. Before long, Hannah convinces Ashley to contact her mother using a spirit board. And that’s when things go bad — very bad.

ScreenPicks spoke with writer, producer, and director of Along Came the Devil Jason DeVan about what it was like exploring horror’s exorcism subgenre.

ScreenPicks: How was it making the movie?

DeVan: It was a long, tedious process. We’re very pleased with the results … but I would recommend not starting out with one of your first films being an exorcism film because it is a large pill to swallow.

ScreenPicks: What made it so tedious?

DeVan: The tedious part was when shooting exorcism scenes. When you’re doing a film dealing with the occult and spiritual possession and things like that … it doesn’t exactly frighten you, but things happen in your life while filming and after filming that kind of have you questioning things around you and the reality that you knew before you started doing the film.

ScreenPicks: So you had personal experiences – frightening things happening on and off the set?

DeVan: Yeah … one of the nights we were shooting the exorcism scene in the church with Sydney Sweeney and Bruce Davison going at it, and the cops were called. We were on just a main street at like 3:00 in the morning, but somehow, some way, just the screaming and the going back and forth – someone must have called the cops. The cops came. They ended up staying and watching … and everything was fine, but the whole thing …

ScreenPicks: It was an ordeal.

DeVan: Sitting behind the camera and watching the actors and everything they were going through was exhausting and actually a little creepier than everyone thought.

ScreenPicks: And offset?

DeVan: After the making of the film, our family in our house in California – we’ve since then moved; we live in Atlanta – we were hearing voices coming from the vents of our house. It almost sounded like someone was watching TV in the attic or an old radio was playing. And it wasn’t just one of us. Our whole family heard it. So when things like that started happening … it had us all kind of scratching our heads.

ScreenPicks: Speaking of your family, your wife plays the role of Sarah and she was a producer as well, is that correct? It was sort of a family affair?

DeVan: It was! She’s not only a producer, she co-writes with me. She’s an amazing writer. I’ll tell a story and write out something and we’ll go back and forth … It’s a team effort. And she’s also an actress.

When we were going into the film, we had no idea she was going to play Sarah. We were working with [casting director] Ricki Maslar, and Ricki said to me during the auditioning process when we were auditioning all the Sarahs, “Why doesn’t Heather play Sarah?” At the time we were looking at a couple different actresses and she said, “She looks like she could pull off looking like Sydney Sweeney and she looks like she could be Jessica Barth’s sister.”

My main concern was I didn’t want her wearing too many hats – being a producer and being on set and doing all the things she needed to do. I wasn’t sold yet on her putting the actress cap on. But, as you can see, I thought she did an amazing job. I couldn’t be prouder of her. I thought she killed the role.

ScreenPicks: The start of the film says that it’s based on true events. Is it a specific story or an amalgamation of exorcism stories you were inspired by?

DeVan: We have close family friends of ours and we got the truth [of] what they went through … that I then mixed into this movie. So starting out the movie with the young girls and the abusive father … I just touched on that … That’s all based on the true story. Along with some of the possession parts in the house, is based on this family as well.

What I also did was interviewed a bunch of priests … the Bishop of Norte Dame told me his own personal stories and struggles with exorcisms that he had performed in Africa and all over the world. He told these stories about an eight-year-old little girl vomiting real, live spiders, crawling out of her mouth and down her body. He wasn’t able to perform the exorcism to feel like he really truly helped this little girl from whatever it was that she was going through. It had him questioning his faith. So to hear a priest and someone of that caliber tell you these stories, it really shakes you and makes you question everything.

ScreenPicks: That’s horrifying. When it comes to the scary scenes in the film itself, how much is CGI versus practical effects?

DeVan: When we set out to make the film, I wanted to do the whole movie, 100% practical, old school effects. We had George Troester from the TV show Face Off and his team come in, and they had the prosthetic arm with the bone breaking out of it and the real contacts — the scleras — and makeup. We had a human devil on set. He’s really there.

After we did the film, that’s when we approached the digital effects team. We had an amazing team. They kind of put the finishing touches on. So at the end of the day, we set out to do 100% all practical effects, it ended up being about 60-40 – 40% visual here and there just to bring it into today’s realm of movie watching. So we ended up having both.

ScreenPicks: Did the final film you ended up with align with what you originally envisioned?

DeVan: Of course when I set out I aimed very high. I was like, “We’re going to do this and it’s going to open in theaters and make millions — 20 million on a Friday night!” and things like that. But I mean as a whole, we are very happy with where it’s at. We are very excited about the way it is being received, especially in the horror community. We are pleased so far!

Along Came the Devil opens in theaters August 10th.