“The Cleansing Hour” premiered at Fantastic Fest on Friday, September 20. The film was written and directed by Damien LeVeck and stars Kyle Gallner as Drew, Ryan Guzman as Father Max and Alix Angelis as Lane.
“The Cleansing Hour” is about millennial entrepreneurs Drew and Max, who run a webcast that streams live exorcisms that are, in fact, elaborately staged hoaxes.
But they get their comeuppance when Drew’s fiancée Lane becomes mysteriously possessed by a real demon that holds the crew hostage. Drew discovers that the demon’s sinister motive is not only about revenge, but also to expose the dark secrets he, Max and Lane have been hiding from one another. With only the show clock remaining, it’s a matter of time before either the truth is revealed or the demon forces them to meet their maker.
We had a chance to interview Alix Angelis during Fantastic Fest and learn more about what it took to create the demonic possession portrayal, working with Damien LeVeck and more. Read the full interview below!
Can you talk about your journey with acting and directing?
Alix: I was an extraordinarily shy child, so my parents put me in theater camp to bring me out of my shell, and I fell in love with it. I think that’s still what I love most about acting. It gives me permission to be heard and take up space and connect with people in a visceral, immediate way. The audience and my cast mates. I relish it because, truth be told, I’m still rather painfully shy.
That’s not to say I don’t have strong opinions. I do. And a creative point of view. That’s why I’ve gotten into writing and directing as well. I’ve been on so many sets where I had a million ideas that I couldn’t voice because it wasn’t my place, and then I realized I should make it my place. My most recent project is a short film called “Seance-ing” about three tweens in the late ’90s who get together under their backyard trampoline to process how their favorite boy band has betrayed them. It’s nostalgic and sparkly and it’s going out to festivals now.
Can you tell people a little bit about what they can expect in “The Cleansing Hour”?
Alix: This movie plays upon the idea of reality TV and what we think of as real and what we think of as important, in terms of viewers and being in the limelight on the Internet. And this turns it around and makes you look at yourself — ourselves — in a dark light. It’s also kind of funny; we can laugh at ourselves and go ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘How honest are you? How much do you change? What do you transform into, to be loved by the masses?’ Scary stuff.
What was the process like, creating the demonic possession portrayal?
Alix: Well, I have a lot of training in the physical theater realm. I went to the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU Tisch, which is very movement- oriented, and then I was a founding member of Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble in LA for years under John Farmanesh-Bocca. All that training really influenced how I got into the demon or, I guess, how I let the demon into me.
Damien and I talked a lot about the differences in physicality between Lane and Lane Possessed by Demon: how it affected posture, how the demon isn’t fully comfortable inside this skin; he has to figure out how to use this body and move in it, so it’s jerky and awkward. Damien was able to give me an image that struck a chord and tuned me in. He said it’s as if the demon is a gnarly tree with sharp twisted branches growing through my muscles out to my finger tips. Yikes. But yeah, that helped.
Did you see any other exorcism horror films for researching the role?
Alix: I asked Damien when I was cast if he had any kind of inspirational things that I should take a look at and he said, ‘Please don’t. I want to see what you bring to it.’ He appreciated my first take in the audition. And so that’s what I did, and hopefully it is something that is original. It’s definitely not stolen because I didn’t see any other performance.
What was it like working with Kyle Gallner and Ryan Guzman?
Alix: It is such an insular story; we’re basically in that room in the chair for most of it, and not only was it great to discover how the scenes worked with the three of us once we were up on our feet and in it, but they both were so caring of me. They were like, ‘Are you okay?’ all the time because I was physically uncomfortable, just to be frank. But everybody was attentive and damn, does that go a long way. I’ll do anything if people are kind to me.
Were you the one doing all the stunts in the film?
Alix: There’s one part where I’m flung against a wall. That wasn’t me. I wanted to but they said no. There was a very talented stunt actress that took over at that point.
Was there something that was the most challenging throughout in terms of the physicality?
Alix: The part where the prayer cloth gets taken out of my mouth. That was real. That was legitimate. That was in my mouth down my throat. So, I was actually gagging. We got in two takes so it wasn’t that bad.
What was it like working with director Damien LeVeck?
Alix: He was fantastic because he comes from an editing background. So he basically edited the film before we even started shooting in his mind and in storyboards. He knew exactly what he needed to get every single shot which made it super smooth. We didn’t go over time. We got exactly what we needed and that was really comforting because often you’re like ‘How is this going to come together?’ And I just trusted him.
Are you a big horror genre fan?
Alix: I’m not actually. I keep saying that. There was one time on set where we were just talking about horror and I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, I don’t really like horror that much.’ And everybody like whipped their heads over and was silent and I was like, ‘Uh oh.’
No, but actually doing this film has opened my eyes to the great films that the genre has to offer, and there are so many different kinds of horror. And I actually really enjoy this type. I didn’t know but it’s like the popcorn and movie night type of movie. And then like the psychological dramas and the dark comedies and all that. We’re acquired by Shudder so I just got my subscription and I’m looking through all that so I’m excited to get more into it.
What’s it like being here at Fantastic Fest with this film?
Alix: Being here and seeing how dedicated all of the fans are it’s such a fun world to step into and I’m definitely more curious, and I want explore this genre more.
Love our work? Buy us a drink while we’re on the ground at Fantastic Fest on Ko-Fi!
Featured photo credit: Heather Kennedy
Catherine grew up watching action flicks at a very young age which led to her love of film. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Radio-TV-Film in 2012. Always the adventurer, Catherine traveled and lived in Sydney, Australia for a year where she took a selfie with Brad Pitt. She runs Shuffle with passion, lots of caffeine and tacos. When she’s not editing or writing you can find her crafting and planning her next adventure.