Most folks may recognize actor Kyle Gallner from television shows such as “Veronica Mars”, “Smallville”, and “CSI: NY”. However, Gallner has made quite the career in the horror genre, having had roles in films such as The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body, and the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (which I love and will not apologize for). Recently he returned to the beloved genre to play Drew in Damien LeVeck‘s horror/possession film, THE CLEANSING HOUR.
In THE CLEANSING HOUR, Max and Drew (Gallner) run a popular webcast that streams “live exorcisms” watched by millions across the globe. In reality, the exorcisms are just elaborately staged hoaxes performed by paid actors. But their fortunes take a turn when one of the actors becomes possessed by an actual demon and takes the crew hostage. IN front of a rapidly growing audience, the demon subjects the crew to a series of violent challenges, threatening to expose the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other unless they come clean and reveal they’re impostors before the show is over.
For the digital and home video release of THE CLEANSING HOUR, we had the chance to chat with Gallner where he discussed everything from what attracted him to the script to encountering an 8-foot tall demon.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Kyle! I’m a big fan of possession films and what I loved about THE CLEANSING HOUR was how it really flipped the concept on its head. What did you think when you first read the script?
Kyle Gallner: That was one of the things that I liked about it, too. When I got [the script] sent to me… you read the description and it’s a possession film, and I’m like, okay. I’m not trying to talk shit but, you know, you kind of can condense where some of these things are going and whatever. Then I read the script and it really takes a totally different direction than anything I’d seen. I thought the social commentary with the social media aspect was funny and I thought it was also really poignant to the times we live in. I thought the script was probably funnier than initially intended; I actually laughed quite a bit while I was reading it. To Damien LeVeck’s credit, I think he enjoyed playing within the light and the darkness, finding comedy within all of these insane things happening. I thought it had a really good balance of horror and comedy and relationships, and I thought the characters were really interesting and well done. It ticked a lot of boxes of things I look for when I read a script in general and then really branched off from there. When talking to Damien before I did the movie, he was talking to me about how he wanted to do a lot of the effects and he was going to try to do as many of them practically as he could which I was excited about. I think practical effects, when right, are so rad and underutilized. So to be able to just see all that happen and play in that world was really neat. It was just one of the things we knew was going to be fun.
Prior to filming, did you watch any reality paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures for research purposes?
Kyle Gallner: I’ve seen those, I don’t watch those – I wouldn’t say I’m like sitting down and watching those. Honestly, I don’t even really watch anything anymore. It’s really bad. I don’t even know what I do with my time anymore. So I didn’t do a ton of research. It was actually a really weird time for me when I had lined up a couple of projects that I was going back to back on. I was actually filming a movie and then when I finished that I was going to go basically right to Romania to shoot less than three weeks after. And then what was super messed up was about 48 hours after I got back from Massachusetts, my appendix gave out. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to do this movie, but Damien and those guys held on, they didn’t recast me. I got the okay from my doctor, the day before I had to fly, to tell me I could go. I actually shot that movie all taped and bandaged up with like appendix scars, and they also fixed a hernia. I was all ripped up on my stomach while we were filming that movie.
Wow. That actually segues perfectly into my next questions which center around the physicality of your performance. That must have been really difficult to get into that headspace after having surgery.
Kyle Gallner: Some things are harder than others. Not to say this was easy, but it was fun. I love physical stuff, like the emotional stuff is where it’s really hard. When I’m freaking out and Lane is choking and I can’t cross onto the stage to grab her and help her, those things are hard. But like the physical, getting pulled and tossed around, and the fighting stuff and things like that, I love. Where I got lucky was because we were filming on that stage, it was more or less like we were filming a play, so we really got to shoot a lot of the film in order. Most of my physical stuff was towards the end so by the time I got to the end, I was like 90% healed so I was able to do all of this stuff that I needed to do. They were also really aware of my situation and very like, I don’t want to say concerned, but they made sure everything ran smoothly and I was as comfortable as I could be. They were very gracious with how they handled all that.
Switching gears a bit, you come into contact with some wild creatures throughout the film as well as your on-screen girlfriend transforming into a demonic entity. What was it like when you saw actress Alix Angelis in her final form?
Kyle Gallner: You know, I thought it was great because you read a script and you can write that the devil shows up or, you know, she’s turned into a demon and you’re like, “Great, what the hell does it look like?” Then you get there on the day and you’re like, “Oh wow, that’s what that looks like.” To see how they gradually did her transition into [a] full-blown demon, where they started adding the bumps across her face and adding prosthetics to her face…huge, huge props to Alix. I mean, so much of that is just her performance as well. I mean, she’s the MVP of this movie. She got her ass kicked every day and was just so in it, so dedicated to it. She didn’t complain once, to the point where I was like if you have an issue you need to say so! (laughs). And then, you know, to see the devil literally walk on the stage was insane. The dude was like eight feet tall in a whole suit; he was humongous. The thing that’s so funny to me is I’ve read some stuff where people kind of shit talk about the ending, where they’re like the CGI was so fake and it’s like, dude, that guy was standing in front of me. There’s nothing fake about that guy at all. Even the orange that they painted, that’s paint. They just enhanced it in post with like a little bit of CGI and like a little bit of heat breath coming out. Everything else was that dude – I could touch him, kick him, he was in front of me completely. So it’s really funny when people are like CGI looks like crap. It’s like dude, the devil was three inches from my face (laughs).
For my final question, I must ask, since this film dealt with demonic possession did anything weird or spooky happen on set?
Kyle Gallner: We did have a bird decide to nest in the studio for a day and that was a disaster because it’s baby was chirping and kind of like ruined half of the day. That’s about as bad as it got (laughs).
For more on THE CLEANSING HOUR check out our review here. THE CLEANSING HOUR is now available on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD.