A remote farmhouse in rural Louisiana. A group of livestock slaughtered and eviscerated. A young, bloodied girl chained to a bed while her distraught father stands over her with a shotgun. 'The Last Exorcism,' produced by Eli Roth ('Cabin Fever,' 'Hostel' 1 and 2), has all of these things and more.

It's a disturbing morality tale about a girl (Ashley Bell) who may be possessed by the devil. Her father (Patrick Fabian) will stop at nothing to save her soul, even if it means killing her, and the pastor who comes with a documentary crew to cast out her demons doesn't believe in God. He practices fake exorcisms and hopes to document what happens there to debunk the "myth" of possession. And soon, it's hell on Earth.

It's unlikely subject matter for Roth, who is best known for extreme gore; he says he enjoyed the idea of making a film that's scary and creepy but has much more to offer than shrieks. Moviefone sat down with him to discuss exorcism, Satan and what he thinks about the 3-D trend in movies. A remote farmhouse in rural Louisiana. A group of livestock slaughtered and eviscerated. A young, bloodied girl chained to a bed while her distraught father stands over her with a shotgun. 'The Last Exorcism,' produced by Eli Roth ('Cabin Fever,' 'Hostel' 1 and 2), has all of these things and more.

It's a disturbing morality tale about a girl (Ashley Bell) who may be possessed by the devil. Her father (Patrick Fabian) will stop at nothing to save her soul, even if it means killing her, and the pastor who comes with a documentary crew to cast out her demons doesn't believe in God. He practices fake exorcisms and hopes to document what happens there to debunk the "myth" of possession. And soon, it's hell on Earth.

It's unlikely subject matter for Roth, who is best known for extreme gore; he says he enjoyed the idea of making a film that's scary and creepy but has much more to offer than shrieks. Moviefone sat down with him to discuss exorcism, Satan and what he thinks about the 3-D trend in movies.

So this isn't just another horror film, is it?
This movie, at its core, is a psychological thriller about a girl who might be crazy or possessed. It's also about the clash between religion and science ... And what I loved about the script was, the scientific approach is coming from the Reverend, who never believed in God, and he's telling the father, "We need to get your daughter to a psychiatrist. She needs help," and then the father is so devout, saying, "You have to get that demon out of my daughter or I will save her soul myself."

It's a really truly interesting clash of the two ideologies. Both of them want to help this girl, but they are completely unwilling to bend and see any point of view from the other side. The father is just so devoutly faithful to a fault -- he believes everything Rev. Marcus tells him -- and Cotton Marcus is so scientific that he never believes she's possessed until it's too late. And that's not true faith. His faith is continually tested in a number of ways, and he fails at every turn.



What's your interest in exorcism as subject matter?
When we were selling it to the territories to raise funding, the Pope came out with this speech saying they were going to open an exorcism academy at the Vatican. In 2007, there were 25 sanctioned exorcists in Rome; today, there are over 300. So that means one of two things: Either Satan is on the rise, or fake exorcisms are on the rise. In America, stories about fake exorcisms keep coming up. My father is a psychiatrist [recently retired] and was a professor at Harvard. I grew up in a psychiatric home, and then I saw 'The Exorcist' as a kid and I was like, "Hey, you didn't tell me about this!" He said to me, "We're Jewish! We don't believe in the devil." I replied, "Well, I do, and maybe the fact you're not telling me is because it's real and now I'm more terrified because you're hiding this whole Satan thing from me!"

I'm very interested in the clash between religion and science. What fascinates me is seeing people approach it from a completely different place, this fundamental place of true faith. Who's to say who's right? I love that the movie fairly showed both sides, both opinions ... It was terrific fun to play with the audience's expectations, leading them one way and throwing them off.

What was the mood like while filming the movie?
We were shooting in the Deep South, and the brother of one of our crew is an exorcist. And he was onset [saying], "Yup, you'd do that. That's what you'd say." He was fact-checking on set. And this was so normal to him, this was something he did every day. To us, exorcism was a crazy thing, but to this other exorcist we found in LA, it was like, "Of course you get the demon out. Just say this prayer of exorcism." This is a real thing in every culture, every religion. It's in every language. Possession and exorcism is very current in the modern world.

50 years ago, evil had a face: Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler. Today, there is evil in terrorism, Wall Street, insurgency, greed, killers, a general feeling of evil in Corporate America -- that is evil. That has taken over, and religion is one thing people are turning to more than ever as a way to fight that. 42 percent of Americans believe in the devil. It's real. And most people believe in creationism. I've been interested in the Two Americas -- the America I grew up with in Boston, the Harvard psychiatric world, and a three-hour plane flight down south to Louisiana, where none of that exists and its just about God and church.

Do you look on fundamentalism as weakness?
No, I do not. I don't look on any of it as a weakness. Whether it's science or religion, if you only believe in that one thing and refuse to see or listen to anything else, that's a weakness, because who's to say who's right? There is a feeling in America that it's science versus religion, and neither side will bend to the other -- ever. It's really interesting. [It] goes right into politics.

It's always people who don't believe in God ... When they're dying, it's like, "Hey, I believe right now!" And that's also something that makes you feel "S***, I should have believed!" That scares me. I wanted to make a film that was thought-provoking, a film that satisfies the story and also inspires discussion and thinking about their beliefs.

Where do you stand on 3-D?
I'm producing the remake of 'Funhouse' in 3-D. I think that 3-D is another element, like CG and HD, and it really depends on the story. 'The Last Exorcism' wouldn't benefit from being in 3-D; you don't need it. It's about the look on her face. It's about seeing, "Is this girl crazy? Is she possessed? Is her father going to shoot her?"

It's these performances and seeing these characters go through this that makes it compelling. 'Piranha 3-D' [which Roth produced] is written and called that for a reason. You want to see the fish popping out of the screen and guts and eyeballs being thrown at you. That's the fun of that movie, and it fully embraces that.

Why did you not go with the gore-fest route for 'The Last Exorcism'?
I've made it clear that it's about possession, not power tools. This is not 'Hostel 3,' and people should not expect a gory bloodbath. What I love about it is that every story has its own appropriate level of violence. You can see 'Piranha 3-D'. It is a magnificent bloodbath; it's spectacular; it's the most blood ever in a movie. And it's wonderful. But that's because it's appropriate for that movie and that story. We never shot it to be PG-13. I just wanted to make it the scariest, smartest movie and it just wound up as PG-13!

'The Last Exorcism' opens in theaters on August 27, 2010.
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