With director Brad Peyton’s latest effort, the horror flick Incarnate, we’re thrust into the terrifying world of demon possession as we follow Dr. Seth Embers (Aaron Eckhart), a scientist who has the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed. In an effort to save a young boy (Gotham’s David Mazouz) from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, Embers delves deeper into pure evil, while facing the horrors of his past.
During the recent press day for the film, we sat down for an exclusive chat with Peyton to speak all things Incarnate, as the director discussed his amazing cast, how he had to get over his fear of horror movies, the preparation that the actors went through and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
Kudos for gathering such a strong cast for Incarnate. Was that important to you?
Brad Peyton: There were two things that I really wanted for movie. Obviously, I wanted scares. I wanted to make the scariest movie I could. And not just like someone breaks their arm or their guts are ripped out, but developing the tension, the tone, the style.
A lot of these smaller budgeted movies, and this is a small movie, they don’t have much style. They don’t have a strong tone. I wanted to as much as I could bring a visual style to it. But the second part is, even with these bigger budget horror movies, the acting is so bad, so I really wanted to get good actors. I was elated when we got Aaron because he’s such an A+ guy. He just one of those actors who just lives his craft, and Carice Van Houten from Game of Thrones. They brought it, gave me everything they had. That was one of my big goals, to get great actors and make this feel as grounded as possible.
How did Aaron Eckhart prepare to play this part?
Peyton: That guy is all about being a chameleon and transforming himself. He sent me stills while I was in prep of him in crowds, disguised in a wheelchair, like all afternoon. If you lived in a wheelchair, how would your life be? So when he came to set, he could roll around in the wheelchair like he was an Olympian. And just totally in the mindset of a guy who lived like this.
David Mazouz, too, does an amazing job playing possessed. Did he do this before or during Gotham?
Peyton: He did this just before he became Bruce Wayne, but it wasn’t surprising he got that role. He just amazed everyone on set. I remember the first set-up I did with him and after the first take, Aaron and I looked at each other and was like, “Oh my god!” I think Aaron originally thought, “oh crap, I really have to be on my game.”
But David is just a natural. You try not to make things too complex, but he had to navigate being “am I possessed? How possessed am I? Am I possessed by feigning I’m not possessed to trick them?” There was all that navigation with his character, beat to beat, moment to moment. David is this kid actor, but he’s super savvy, super intelligent, a really nice kid and just one of those actors that just has it. No hesitation, no fear, he just goes in there and gets it.
I’d say, “David, could you dial it to this place?” and he’d say, “oh yeah, no problem!” and just does it. It lifted a huge weight because everyone gets nervous when there are kids in their movies, because they usually don’t have a lot experience. But he was phenomenal.
With Incarnate, you definitely give the demon movie concept a twist, with having someone go into the brain of someone possessed. Is that what intrigued you?
Peyton: It’s such a big idea and something I’d never seen or heard about before. We even expanded on it. I’m heavily influenced by science fiction, and one of the ideas I pitched really worked. Much like Blade Runner, how they’re looking for androids but like a regular cop fails, they have to call in a blade runner. So this idea that if a priest fails [at an exorcism], you can go to this sub-culture of people called Incarnates.
You see that in the movie and meet Aaron’s character’s mentor, the guy who trained him as incarnate. Who basically sells his ability to the highest bidder and lives incredibly wealthy. But Eckhart’s character lives in a dump because all he’s trying to do is find the demon that killed his family. I just loved how this world could start so small but then we could make this world so big, so layered. I’ve never seen a movie that did that.
Do you find demon possession films are some of the scarier horror flicks out there now?
Peyton: The truth is, I have avoided watching horror movies for the first half of my life because I had difficulty separating reality from make-believe when I was a kid. Watching horror movies was the worst possible thing for me to do. It would psychologically scar me so badly.
What scared you the most as a kid?
Peyton: I’m going to tell you a story I haven’t told anyone yet: When I was a little kid, I was at my grandmother’s house. My mom has 13 brothers and sisters, really big family. I grew up in a place in Canada where all you do is drink beer, play hockey and make babies.
Anyways, my youngest aunt put on The Terminator, which I know you may not think of as a horror movie, but I was 6. I walked circles around that house, trying to avoid the television. But I had to walk through it because it was a small house, and glimpsed every 30 seconds of Terminator. That fucked me up for like the next 10 years of my life. So this type of movie, it’s probably why it’s taken me so long to go make one because this crazy dark stuff can impact you.
You think you’ve finally gotten over it?
Peyton: As a filmmaker, I’ve always jokingly said I’m a method filmmaker. I can’t help just taking on some of the tone of what I’m making. Obviously, Journey 2 was the best experience of my life because I was in Hawaii shooting giant fake bees with Michael Caine and Dwayne Johnson. Silly fun. And then San Andreas I’m living through the most intense physical trauma ever, as I sink buildings and crash helicopters. I can’t help but get so involved.
With Incarnate, it was like, oh my god, Aaron and I are going down the rabbit hole of what would happen if a demon killed your family, and you would do anything you could to drink yourself into a stupor and sober up only to take on other demons as your day job. You do carry the weight and tone of what you do, so it’s taken me a minute to make one of these.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Aaron very much for his time. Be sure to check out Incarnate as it’s now in theatres everywhere!