The Good Exorcist Review and Interview w/ Director Josh Stifter

by Lilliana Spellman

When you think of horror comedy only a few really good titles come to mind but it may be time to add "The Good Exorcist" to the list of classic horror comedies we pull out to revisit form time to time.

Written and directed by Josh Stifter “The Good Exorcist" is the story of Father Gil, a dedicated priest who travels the world fighting demons using traditional and not so traditional exorcism techniques, he is a deeply loving man who's dedicated to his work, his metal and the destruction of evil.

After taking a routine case at a vacation ranch our hardcore hero is sucked into a case of demonic possession so intense the demon is able to mask its presence and possess multiple people and items across the quiet setting. Joined by his new friends Maria and Stanley, Gil sets out to rid the ranch of its demons and maybe help Stanley break out of his shell a bit.

The movie is hands down hilarious, Father Gil is an extremely likable lead, charismatic and full of smiles. He always has a way of giving you a chuckle or stopping you in deep thought, brought to life by Daniel Degnan, Gil has a heart of gold and a will of steel.

From the minute he dances into frame to The Metal Exorcist, to the absolutely fucking insane ending, Daniel knocks this character out of the park in so many ways. The deadpan delivery of some of his lines, the small pats on the back he gives himself throughout, the smirk!

Father Gil is the essential leader of our story and he takes the spotlight in more ways than one. Next up we have Stanley, he was described to me by Josh as "a Labrador of a human" and I couldn't agree more.

“That dude is a Labrador of a human. Loyal and full of energy. I rarely had to direct him because he just rolled with it and made it his own.” - Josh Stifter

Stanley is the ranchman, he makes this very clear, he loves his job and his family he longs for a life outside the ranch, one that includes his crush Maria. The subtle nuances to Stanley's character (portrayed by Avery Merrifield) are what make him just so lovable, for instance during an early scene Father Gil introduces himself with a peppy "hello!" to which he was greeted with:

"I'm the ranch man..."

"Pleased to meet you I'm Father Gil!"

"I AM the ranch man"

Stanley is a small pillar for this movie keeping it going during any lulls in plot or action, he always keeps the story moving in some way.

Also in the main cast is Brittany Ortiz as Maria, the badass loner whose art is out of this world and intentions as mysterious as the case she’s caught up in. Our boy Stanley has a major crush on Maria and although she looks out for him she’s yet to return the feeling. Maria's dark brooding nature is a key balance in the trinity with Gil being the serious but lovable ground, Stanley at its comedic core and Maria as the badass and it works well.

During the movie a few interesting bits of character are scattered throughout for those paying attention and it really adds to the world, the radio blaring about demonic possessions increasing, Father Gils small clap after his home made video, Tuesday night dance parties, all of this adds little touches, subtle nods and sometimes giant revelations and I couldn't love the movie for it more.

The ranch itself has a desperately empty vibe, as if even in it's good days no one visited. The awkward nature of Stanley's parents, who run the ranch, combined with the complete isolation make it a very creepy locale and the retro feel to everything inside makes for some very cool possessions!

I could go on about the movie for pages, I could tell you so much I adored about it (and I really, really do) but I'll stop here and just say, you NEED to see this flick.

If you are a fan of Shawn of the Dead, Zombieland or hell even Clerks this is the movie for you. It has witty dialogue, interesting lore, some insanely funny conversations, very creative possession scenes and a kick ass soundtrack!

Keep reading below for an exclusive interview with the man himself Mr. Josh Stifter!

I sat down with Josh over DMs and we had a great chat in length about the movie and the process behind it as well as some interesting lore and insight on characters.

Lily: You had a budget of 7k, you have a very creative mind, what made you want to tell this story over any other?

Josh: At the beginning - the costume. I knew that having to pay attention to continuity in the wardrobe would be a pain the butt, so the first thing I thought of is what kind of character would I want to see Daniel (cowriter/best friend/actor) play. It was between a clown and a priest and he already had the suit from his wedding.

I also grew up religious and Daniel and I knew a lot of "church people". The characters in The Good Exorcist were all very much based on people we knew growing up. A blend of these silly personalities that we saw around us all the time. The characters to me were always the key. I knew the visual effects would be limited and the movie would have issues based on the confines of the show, so as I wrote, I really focused in on who these characters were and what would make people like to watch them."

Lily: I agree, the characters made the film, in was invested in the plot and the safety of the characters, the visuals came second are were still fun

Josh: Also, I wanted to have a lot of little monsters in the movie. The Teddy, the Bible, the phone... I instantly knew that if I made these objects possessed I could have a lot of fun bringing them to life.

Lily: Working with such a small budget, what did you find your biggest challenge?

Josh: The budget was less of an issue than the time. We were always up against the clock because of the reality show. Even though it was an indie film, we had to follow union rules because of the reality program. And even in post production, I only had a couple of months to do hundreds of visual effects, edit, sound design, etc.

I loved the obstacle of the low budget! Hell, we made the Abbadon monster on Maria's floor for about $20

It was just garbage bags, ping pong balls, some clearance rack rubber snakes, and a weird Halloween store monster mouth Daniel found for a couple bucks"

Lily: What was the hardest scene to film over all?

Josh: The very intro to the movie... We ran into so many issues filming that sequence. I originally had a huge idea that would've looked amazing, but a thunderstorm rolled in and we couldn't film outside. I also got bronchitis and lost track of the time so my schedule was completely off. I'm still very happy with how it came out, but if they ever let me remake the movie with a budget, I'd really love to try to make what I saw in my head. They being the film gods.

Lily: What scene did you enjoy filming most?

Josh: I really had a blast making that Abbadon come to life. The puking teddy bear moment was super fun too (even though we had to do it twice because I wasn't rolling on the first one... doh!) We really had fun the entire time. I can't think of a moment that wasn't fun. Besides maybe filming in “hell".

Hell was Robert's parking lot at Troublemaker Studios, The same spot the filmed Planet Terror. And when we filmed that hell scene it was like 40 degrees out... And in Texas, 40 degrees feels like 5. I'm from Minnesota and used to the cold, but we were freezing that night.

Lily: Tell me about the ad libbed dialogue, it seems alot of fun was had with characters as a whole.

Josh: Quite a bit was improv or we wrote minutes before we filmed. Because the script was originally set in a Bed and Breakfast, we had to change stuff to adapt it for the ranch. With those changes, I felt a certain amount of comfort in just letting everyone figure out who they were and speak in their own voice. We also filmed SO fast I didn't expect everyone to memorize it verbatim, Instead, I just focused on the important beats and say what comes natural.

Lily: They were all wonderful and the parents were lovingly creepy kind of showing us why Stanley was so odd.

Josh: Yeah! I love Mr. and Mrs. Willows. They're so odd. And a lot of their personalities are based on real people. Like when Mr Willows says "If anything happened to mothers trinkets, she'd have a shit hemorrhage” that's something my grandpa actually said once that stuck with me (and yes, my grandpa called my grandma “mother").

Lily: How would you describe Father Gil?

Josh: Father Gil is an interesting character because before we went to film, we had written him far goofier. But as we started filming, we realized he's the kind of person who cares deeply for people but is still completely unaware of himself. One of my favorite moments is after Father Gil shows the "So You're Having an Exorcism" animation, that he obviously made himself, and he claps for it. That to me is the most Father Gil thing in the movie.I think he sees himself as a wandering, lone cowboy.But we all see him as the slightly awkward, a bit confused goofball.

Lily: I'm so glad you pointed that out! He also smirks before it plays

Josh: I love that smirk! Like, "You guys are in for a treat!"

Lily: Stanley is...unique? Is he just a sweetheart, a moron? It's hard to label such a great character.

Josh: Stanley is Avery. That dude is a Labrador of a human. Loyal and full of energy. I rarely had to direct him because he just rolled with it and made it his own.Stanley is a "big" personality but he also has these subtleties that just make you fall in love with. Like when he walks into the wall after talking to Gil in the shower.

Lily: He seems proud of his work, he mentions being a ranch man quite a few times.

Josh: The original script took place in a Bed and Breakfast. Originally it was much creepier when he called himself the "Groundskeeper", I think we had originally intended Stanley to be more Norman Bates, but with Avery's childlike silliness, we just leaned into it.

Lily: There has to be something behind Stanley's sock, hand, penis rubbing story, please elaborate!

Josh: I love dream stories. I'm a big fan of interpreting dreams and find it hilarious when people ramble about a dream that is obviously nonsense. But the socks thing actually came because Robert Rodriguez had a sock brand. Daniel and I thought it might be a fun moment to show his socks and do a sort of "trippy dream sequence" where we visually show Stanleys dream... but as we filmed it, it was SO funny I couldn't cut away. We scrapped showing the dream and instead just showed he reactions of Maria and Gil (which make it even funnier)I laughed so hard while filming that I ruined three takes. We had to keep filming it over and over because every time Avery said "penis" like that, me and the reality show camera lady couldn't control ourselves"

Lily: Love it, kinda glad I didn't have to see Stanley's dong.

Josh: You should've seen the undies he was originally wearing in the "it itches" scene.

Avery had brought a couple pairs and one of them was WAY too revealing.

Lily: What can you tell me about "Stanley syndrome”?

Josh: HAHAHAH! Stanley syndrome is having night terrors/sleep paralysis in reverse. Where instead of being asleep and feeling like you can't move or something is attacking you, you can't stop moving and attacking others.

I had wrote this scene where Stanley sleep punches Father Gil because my dad always used to sleep walk and do crazy stuff in the night. I think Daniel wrote the Stanley Syndrome line and we just rolled with it.

Lily: Are there any plans for the future concerning the characters? We seem to get some hope end film.

Josh: Oh yeah! I have two scripts in the works - Father Gil and Daughters of Lilith & Saint Gil Goes to Hell Again!",I'm really into Christian "lore" and I really love the idea of Maria being a witch/daughter of Lilith ... I feel like I have a lot to say . about that theme, I'm also working on a series of "So You're Having an Exorcism" animations. I'd love to do a comic as well this year.

Lily: The animations! How could I over look those! What inspired those, who did them and in universe was it Gil that made them? Is that why he’s so pleased with himself.

Josh: I did the animations actually! I challenged myself to do them in a weekend. My friend Matt Oberdalhoff helped with the Father Gil shooting the girl one, but the rest was all me."

Lily: A weekend? Jesus, amazing job!

Josh: I always saw them as being made by Gil, I picture him sitting at a computer in the church listening to death metal and animating himself.

Lily: Tell everyone why they NEED to see The Good Exorcist (and I agree they need to see it).

Josh: I like to tell people that I feel like The Good Exorcist is the film equivalent of a punk band playing in a backyard on a summer day. It's not flawless and it's not the same kind of thing everyone else is doing, but it's a helluva lot of fun....but really they just need to see it for Stanley.

Lily: One last thing I HAVE to know, whats with the Tuesday night dance party?”

Josh: You don't have Tuesday night dance parties?

And with that, he danced off blasting death metal, off to make more amazing flicks destined to be cult classics.

The Good Exorcist is currently available through Amazon Prime or Troma

Filmmaker Josh Stifter has a Pareon at:

He uploads behind the scenes clips, bloopers, animations, making-of featurettes, podcasts and more! Be sure to check it out and (if you’re able) support this fantastic creator!

You can also haunt Josh on Twitter at @joshstifter, tell him Stanley sent you and received a free awkward stare!

I hope you all had a terrible time, join me next week for an overview of and chat with everyone's favorite up and coming mutant from The Channel of the Living Dead!

Until then stay toxic, stay mutated, stay freaky.

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