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Emily Hagins talks Frightfest selection Sorry About the Demon

After working on the Shudder hit Scare Package, writer/director Emily Hagins is back with the horror comedy Sorry About The Demon, which is set to screen at Arrow Video Frightfest 2022.

We caught up with Emily to tell us more about the film.

You had previously worked on projects such as Scare Package, how did it feel being at the helm of Sorry About the Demon?

It was nice to reunite with the producing team and lead actor Jon Michael Simpson from our Scare Package segment “Cold Open”. My last horror comedy feature was in 2011 with My Sucky Teen Romance, and I’ve loved getting to explore this genre combination again with Sorry About the Demon

What can you tell us about the plot of the film?

I’m actually pulling this from the Fright Fest description, as I think it’s a pretty fun summary of the film! 

After being dumped by his girlfriend Amy, broken-hearted Will is offered a massive house at a very low rent. What’s the catch? The restless spirit haunting the place needs a human sacrifice and the prior owners must find one or else their young daughter is toast.

I ask this a lot but how tricky is it to mix horror and comedy?

My introduction to horror was this zombie horror/comedy called Undead I saw when I was 11 years old, and hearing the audience laugh and scream along with it made me fall in love with the idea of combining horror and comedy in my own work. I think horror and comedy are two genres that share a similar structure — a set-up and a punchline (in horror, this would be the building of dread and the reveal of the scare as the punchline.) Leaning into the similarities between the genres has helped me unite my horror/comedy projects thematically and tonally, so they don’t feel too segmented — for example, “okay, here’s a break for a joke.” or “stop laughing now, time for a scare.” When you don’t lean into the combination of the two genres, I think the story can end up feeling stilted like that. When I’m writing, I try to think of horror and comedy as two “flavours” working in tandem to create a new combination instead of two opposites trying to exist in the same space. But who knows, maybe I’m just hungry as I type this! 

Tell us about working with Shudder?

Shudder has been wonderful to work with. They gave me the best notes I’ve ever gotten on a project, and it really felt like we were working together to create the best film possible. As a filmmaker, I am inspired by how much they support and champion unique storytellers and interesting visions in the genre space from all over the world — and I am beyond honoured to have one of my films in their catalogue! 

How did you approach casting Sorry About The Demon?

I was very lucky to bring in two actors I knew well — Jon Michael Simpson and Jeff McQuitty. This is my fourth project with Jon Michael, and it’s been amazing to develop a creative collaboration with such a funny and talented performer over the last several years. He really knocks it out of the park, balancing the humor and sadness and scares of the film with so much authenticity and heart. And I had been dying to work with Jeff for years! He and Jon Michael have an existing friendship they drew upon frequently for their characters, and I think that really comes through. Paige Evans and Olivia Ducayen are such strong and captivating performers. Paige had this beautiful friendship with Presley Allard on set, who was one of the incredibly talented young actors in the film. They worked together on uniting their demonic performances and supported each other throughout the production. I remember Paige sticking around to watch and encourage Presley’s takes, giving her thumbs-ups and (masked) smiles from the monitor. Every young performer in this film — Presley Allard, Jude Zappala, Scout Flint — was incredibly professional and dedicated. Lastly, the voice of our demon, Tony Vespe, was a post-production addition and gave our titular Demon such a hilarious and ominous personality that is so uniquely Tony. I’ve been fortunate to work with Tony on several films since I was 12 years old, and about ten years ago he showed me this “demonic” voice as a joke on the set of another project. I never forgot it, and wrote this demon’s dialogue with that voice in mind! So I was very glad it worked out for him to bring that voice to life in the finished film. 

How do you hope audiences react to the film at Arrow Video Frightfest?

To be honest with you — we made a very sweet and heartfelt and weird little horror/comedy. It’s kind and wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s personal and meaningful to me. I hope people will come away feeling uplifted and entertained. The movie is about feeling unsure if you’re good enough if you’re worthy or deserving of the life you’ve grown into. These are all things I’ve experienced, and I hope at least someone out there feels like they can relate and we can share this exploration together through some laughs and scares. 

What was the most fun you had on set?

I want to say two things here — 

1) We were extremely lucky to get to build our entire set — we built three stories of the house inside the atrium of a Holiday Inn in Canada while the cast and crew stayed in the same hotel. It was our little covid bubble, and an incredible feat to see accomplished by our art and construction teams. This is an independent film! And the amount of care and craft our Production Designer Josh Turpin and Art Director Somerville Black put into bringing every aspect of the script to life was inspiring. It gave our actors so much freedom to exist in this world built just for them. By being able to cut through walls and move pieces of the set freely, allowed our camera team to pull off some amazing feats — brilliantly accomplished by our Director of Photography, Eric Oh. 

2) Getting to see our youngest actor, Presley Allard, give her possessed performance was so incredible, it made the whole cast and crew give her a standing ovation after her first take. That also made me cry — to see such a young and talented actor celebrated by the whole set. It was one of my favourite set memories of all time! 

Is the plan to stream on Shudder later this year?

I haven’t been given a definitive release date yet, but keep an eye out for it on Shudder later in 2022 or early 2023! 

Sorry About The Demon screens at Arrow Video Frightfest 2022.

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