The demons of one’s past aren’t the only challenges facing Elly in The Accursed. The film centers on the young protagonist as she is coming to terms with her mother’s death and takes a job as a caretaker for the client of a family friend for one weekend, only to learn the isolated cabin in the woods holds dark secrets about her past, as well as a threat to her future.
Sarah Grey leads the cast of The Accursed as Elly alongside Alexis Knapp, Sarah Dumont, Mena Suvari, Meg Foster, Sherman Augustus, Kailani Knapp, and Troy James. The film hails from Kevin Lewis, who recently shot to stardom in the director’s chair with the Nicolas Cage-led Willy’s Wonderland, and is back with a different kind of bone-chilling genre effort.
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Ahead of the film’s release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with stars Sarah Grey, Alexis Knapp, Mena Suvari, and director Kevin Lewis to discuss The Accursed, their close bond in making the movie, ’70s inspirations, and more.
Cast & Director on The Accursed
Screen Rant: I’m very excited to talk about The Accursed. What about this project really caught your interest?
Sarah Grey: Off the bat, it’s a horror. I love horror. I’m a fan of the genre. And the writing was just great, I spoke to Kevin, and we really connected, and I just loved his aura and his disarming personality, and his passion for the project was super infectious, so I just felt super excited at the opportunity.
Alexis Knapp: Mena, you go last. She usually talks first, we need to take the reins, I think she deserves a break. [Laughs] I was drawn to the project, because it was a very different kind of character for me, it’s something I’ve never been really given the opportunity to play yet. When I spoke to Kevin, I asked him straight up, I was like, “Why me?” and he said, “Well, we’re going to have to move so fast with this that I don’t have time to coach anybody. I can’t teach anybody how to act, I need veterans, and you have a career where you’ve never really been given a shot at some kind of character that is grounded and strong and, I won’t say ugly, but just not glamorous, and rough around the edges.” He wanted to see me challenge myself with that, and I’m like, “Man, I love you. Thank you.” So, I’m very grateful.
We’re repeating ourselves and all these things, but basically, the storyline is so much more in depth than most horror. If it was just a bunch of slashing nonsense for cheap, bloody thrills and hits, then probably not. But it’s not, it’s a very deep film that’s moving people on an emotional level and making them think, and I could see that from the storyline, that that was gonna happen.
Mena Suvari: Ah, yes, yes, yes, all that. And then, I guess, I’ve been a huge fan of the genre my whole life. Huge fan of Kevin’s, that felt like a no-brainer. I was really impressed by the writing, I felt like it was really solid, and unique, in a way, when you think of most films in this genre. That’s what I really loved about it, I loved the way that it kind of makes fun of itself at moments. And Alma is a lot, I was sort of like, “Wow, okay, this is what you’re thinking of me. How am I going to do this? It seems pretty wild.” But I love the challenge, maybe because it’s so shocking, it was more exciting. But there were a few times where I felt like with certain scenes, like the setup, I could see the allusion to other films, or other current horror content, and I was like, “Oh, wow, okay, we’re gonna do that. Are you sure?” But that’s what was fun about all of it, is really going there. So I had a lot of fun with all that. [Chuckles]
It is really a treat for horror genre fans. Kevin, that’s a testament to you and to Rob’s script. What about the script really caught your interest to bring it to life on screen?
Kevin Lewis: Rob Kennedy wrote a great script, and I just loved the characters, the dynamic of these women, and what they were going through, and I just thought, “Man, if I can tell this narrative and tell this story, I think there’s something really special here.” So, really, just the characters, and the whole thing about grief and regret, and the idea of we all have demons, we all have to face them. In our movie, it manifests into a physical demon, right, but it’s really about facing your demons and how if it doesn’t catch up to you, it will catch up to you, and you have to take care of your problems. When I was talking to Sarah about it, I talked about Repulsion, a Polanski movie that I love, and I just thought that was a great example of someone who’s just losing their mind, and you could really talk about, too, people go through a lot of tough times, and they need help.
That scene when Beth tells her, “Maybe you should see someone,” and she’s like, “You mean like a psychiatrist?” it’s dismissive. If only Elly did that, and worked through her pain and suffering, she wouldn’t have been going through the cabin and would have done things [differently]. I always think about life, you have a right or a left, you make a right turn, what happens? You make a left turn, what would happen? We’re all defined by our choices, and the choices we make. That was a very powerful theme when I read the script, too, about the choices that each one of these characters make, and what sets off the chain of events and reactions because of it.
Sarah, you have to carry a lot of those layers throughout this entire film. What was it like getting to the heart of your character and working with Kevin on all those layers?
Sarah Grey: It was heavy, and going to those places emotionally can be draining, but so fulfilling and cathartic. Thankfully, working with Kevin, I’m just so grateful, he was such a great collaborator, he was so receptive to if I had any ideas. It was just such a joy to work with him, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, I felt really lucky that way, I felt really supported.
That’s always what you want to hear from a project. What were your first reactions when you saw the demon on set, because that is really quite the crazy design?
Mena Suvari: Awesome.
Sarah Grey: It was kind of confusing, because it looked terrifying, but Troy’s such a sweetheart, just radiating light. But then visually, it was so scary.
Alexis Knapp: Yeah, Sarah said it well, he really radiates inner love and beauty and really is such a loving, kind person. He’s just unlocked another part of himself, he’s just liberated. What he can do with his body, and what a free spirit he is, it was like he was just free of any negativity, I wonder if there’s a correlation there with his extreme Gumbyness. I haven’t ever seen anyone like that before in my life, and I did acrobatics, I’ve seen that kind of stuff before, but he’s on another level. He even had to put his finger in my mouth at one point, and he was really like, “[Whispering] I hate doing this.” It was so sweet, and I was like, “Just f—-ng shove it in there, whatever!” [Laughs]
Yeah, that seems like it would probably be an awkward situation.
Alexis Knapp: It still sucked, but he was delightful about it.
Kevin, I know you talked about Repulsion as an influence for you on this one. Did you have any other sources of inspiration that you looked to when putting together this film, be it for the story or for the visual aesthetics?
Kevin Lewis: Oh, yeah, this movie is a love letter to the ’70s horror movie. We talked about Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen and The Changeling. The Changeling is very important to me, those moments that George Scott is in the house with the ball and the low angle, the ball is on the floor, and the piano and everything, just getting those moments. I just don’t feel that some horror movies these days take time to just let things breathe and exist, and I really wanted that for this movie. I didn’t want something quick-cut.
It’s funny, because in the beginning, it was like, “How many jump scares do we have, and how many this and that,” and it’s like, “No, we gotta set the mood and the atmosphere and the tone. If we do that right, then I think everything else is gonna fall into place.” It’s a tribute to everybody here, all these fine actors, and what they did on this movie, because I couldn’t have done it without them. This is a character piece, and it’s a very deep movie about relationships, and no tricks of the trade is going to do anything if it weren’t for them and what they did with these characters. So, amazing job, thank you [all] so much.
The ’70s era is one that I think is too often overlooked in the horror genre nowadays. Sarah and Mena, I love the dynamic that you two have together onscreen. It’s this wonderfully odd and slightly combative back-and-forth. What was that like developing that rapport with one another off-camera?
Sarah Grey: I’ll just say it’s a testament to Mena’s acting, she was so kind and supportive and warm, and then it was action, she was on, she was terrifying, she’s evil. Then, as soon as it was “Cut,” she was back to super warm, and she was so able to turn it on and off, it was really impressive.
Mena Suvari: Very nice, oh, God. It was a really quick shoot, we didn’t get to meet one another, talk much until I really got there. And then, I don’t know, for me personally, I never want to bother anybody, I like just want to be a fly on the wall, and do my thing, because I know that schedule. I know it’s so intense, but we had such a wonderful connection with Kevin, and I feel like any moment that I needed something, I always had that time with him or with Sarah, in the moment. I think a lot of these things just unfolded naturally, we didn’t rehearse those moments together too much, and some people might not want to. I think that it was maybe a reflection of us all having a strong grasp of our characters in the story and where we needed to go.
I think that that was reflected, for me watching the film, I really enjoyed the moments also between Beth, and Elly, that was something that really stood out for me in particular with this film is I don’t feel like you see enough of those realistic, grounded conversations. It felt very real, it felt like Beth genuinely really cared, it was asking the questions that we wanted to know the answers to. I think it’s a testament to so many things, not just Kevin, you have the script, Rob, you have a lot of the meat, and that’s how the magic happens.
Since you mention Beth and Elly’s dynamic, I love that very much as well. Sarah, what was that like developing that report with the other Sarah?
Sarah Grey: Sarah Dumont was awesome to work with, I’m so glad she played our Beth, she brought so much energy to the character, so much life, she was just great to bounce off of. I felt like we did really have a quick chemistry together, so it was just a joy to work with her.
Kevin Lewis: Can I say one more thing about Sarah Dumont, which blew me away? She’s such a team player, we had Beth’s car, and it was full of roaches, and we had to get it taken care of the next day, yet there were [still] some roaches, and she’s like, “I don’t care. We need the shot, let’s go,” and I’m like, “I love you so much.” She was just amazing.
Talk about a team player. Have you been hearing feedback or reception from anybody, outside of me saying that I love the movie?
Mena Suvari: I think people that I know that have just watched the trailer are really creeped out, they’re very disturbed. I try not to think about these things, because you can’t control any of that, it is what it is, we all had a great time, that’s all that matters. But, for me personally, I think that Alma really goes there in a few moments, so I’m a little excited. But I love this film, and everyone is so incredible, and just what we talked about, the script, these moments that I think Kevin lets breathe, this type of filmmaking for me, just watching it was really refreshing, especially in this genre, because you don’t really see that.
Alexis Knapp: I found it really hard to choke Mena, that was f—-ng hard. [Chuckles] That was the hardest thing of anything, like, “How do I choke this beautiful woman?” Also slamming Meg’s head down, that was hard too, I need to work on it.
Mena Suvari: I was so impressed. That’s the thing, I think we all knew that sense of urgency, right? It’s like, “We got to do what we got to do.” But that was so fun, though, you just feel so safe with one another, and the horrible things I had to do to you, Sarah, grotesque things, but everyone was a team player, everyone was like, “Okay, let’s get it.” I think that’s a testament to you, Kevin, it really falls back on that, because it’s a gift, it’s very special, you don’t always have that, people that are just like, “I care because of the art and the creative element, and I’m game for whatever.”
Kevin Lewis: That moment, that scene, was really important to me, because, yes, Alma’s bad, yes, she’s the villain, we have a demon and everything going on. But then, we also have two human beings and the violence that one human being is inflicting on the other one, brutal violence, choking someone. It’s like, “Who is the demon in the room? Is it the demon or is it mankind?” So, that really was important to me, and I do a cut away of the cross that’s dangling on her, because I think sometimes, we can get caught up in things. You can read into things in organized religion and stuff like that, “Who’s manipulating who, who’s pulling the strings, is the person like Mary Lynn?”
It’s mankind, it’s brutal, and it’s raw. But then, there’s this also demon, which kind of also represents the demon that they’re all facing, and who’s the bad guy, Alma is clearly, but taking someone’s life, like what Mary Lynn does, that’s pretty intense, that’s going to the dark side. We all have that darkness in our hearts, so that moment was very important to me, because it just showed the brutality of humanity. Even though there’s supernatural stuff going on with a demon and all this stuff, it’s just two people, and someone’s choking the life out of the other. I remember talking to Charlie, our stunt coordinator, because, Mena, remember we were all figuring out how to do it and make it safe? He was like, “Well, if someone gets choked out, it’s like five to eight seconds or whatever,” like, “Okay, that’s what we’re going to do.”
I was trying to make it as brutal and as real as possible, that’s why I only did two setups of the camera, because I wanted to make it like the audience was there in the room as a voyeur watching it, and make it even more uncomfortable, because violence is not fun. It’s not here for glamour, it’s very brutal and honest, because that’s what mankind can do. As I said before, we can create things, we can destroy, and at that moment, everything was getting destroyed. Elly’s world was getting destroyed, Mary Lynn was getting destroyed within, Sadie’s gonna be getting destroyed, she’s becoming Mary Lynn, Alma’s now getting destroyed. She’s gonna start becoming the demon. So, it was all a culmination, building to that one moment, that choke is a very important moment in this movie.
About The Accursed
Elly (Sarah Grey) is asked by a family friend (Mena Suvari) to spend a few days looking after an elderly woman (Meg Foster) living in a remote cabin. She readily agrees thinking a short trip to the woods will be a nice escape. The cabin turns out to be anything but relaxing as Elly begins hallucinating in ways that blur reality with her dreams. As the visions take over, Elly realizes that she was lured there by a demonic presence hiding inside of the woman just waiting to break free.
Check out our one-on-one interview with The Accursed director Kevin Lewis as well.
Next: 10 Movies To Watch If You Liked Rosemary’s BabyThe Accursed is now in theaters and on digital platforms and VOD.