The exorcism sub-genre of horror is an ever popular one. Some of the scariest horror movies, comics, and television shows have featured alarming exorcism sequences from William Friedkin’s Academy Award winning feature The Exorcist to Robert Kirkman’s Outcast comics to the first season of Penny Dreadful. Now, WEtv, Blumhouse Productions, and Eli Roth have teamed up to bring a new kind of exorcism drama to television.
South of Hell stars Mena Suvari as Maria, a young woman who is a demon-hunter-for-hire living in the haunted old city of Charleston in South Carolina. Like those that she hunts, Maria is divided within herself, struggling with her own demon, Abigail, who resides inside of her, feeding on the evil Maria exorcises from others. I had the opportunity to speak with Suvari about, as she explained, “the most complicated character I’ve ever played,” and director Jennifer Lynch on the set in Charleston.
“I love the demon side of my character; that’s the most fun for me to play,” Suvari tells me on a stormy fall afternoon in South Carolina. “But there’s a lot of it that, I only take myself as far as each episode. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen because I don’t want it to get in the way, but it’s definitely very convoluted. But I hope that people respond to it and they like it. I feel like our production value is there, amazing makeup and special effects, everybody’s really passionate about being here… I love it and I hope that people enjoy it. It’s got kind of something for everyone in a way because it’s very thriller and mystery and it does have the horror aspect but I feel like it’s something that I’ve never seen before. It’s very different.”
Jennifer Lynch also interjected about Suvari’s character — she was directing the third episode when I spoke to her and returned for the fifth later in the season — explaining, “One of the great things about the Maria character is that she is so genuinely able to see and forgive the dark parts of other people; their weaknesses, their flaws, their demons – and her own she wrestles with in a way that’s almost unfair, and we feel for her. She’s so much more forgiving of other people and so much more willing to help others and would just rather squash her own than to deal with it. She’s a caretaker.”
The Boxing Helena director continued, elaborating on what makes this type of series so interesting. Lynch added, “That’s the beauty of it, the humanity in it. The planet is light and dark at all times as well, as are we and we should [be], and we wake up with this amnesia whereupon we forget that all of us are in the same boat. We’re all concerned about being not enough, or too much, or right or wrong or what have you and there’s that terror and, is that thing that is my flaw going to kick me out of the running or make me too different or how do I stand out and not be wrong different?
“And like all great superheroes, it turns out getting bitten by that spider or being from another planet makes you special so the nerd you were or the outsider you were, all that loneliness was for a reason and once you realize that her demon and she bonding may actually be a unifying force, in the same way that [for me,] Jenn and her dark side is a unifying force, I can’t keep pretending it’s not there.”
The entire first season of South of Hell premiered on Friday, November 27 and will be available on Saturday, November 28 on VOD, download to own, and TVE with bonus content available on WEtv.com.
Image Credits: WE tv