Jason DeVan grew up loving football and Nancy Meyers movies, although when the Pennsylvania State University theater major and walk-on football player finally got his chance to make a movie, Along Came the Devil, it was as far from a romantic comedy as you can get.
“People who like horror, they like horror but they like other movies as well. They can handle everything. On the other hand, fans of romantic comedies are usually not often comfortable watching, you know, ax murderers,” said DeVan, who has an ax murderer and other unpleasantness in Along Came the Devil 2, opening at the Westown Movies 12 GTX (south of Wilmington) Friday, and on VOD everywhere.
DeVan hopes one day to make a rom-com, but concentrated his early filmmaking efforts on horror, in part because he and actress wife (and screenwriting partner) Heather DeVan understood that in Hollywood, horror is still a thriving market and good way for aspiring filmmakers to break through.
DeVan’s own shot a directing came quite via circuitous route: He went to Penn State on a football scholarship, but lost it when he partied a little too much and studied a little too little.
“I had a lot of freedom that I wasn’t used to,” he said.
Former Nittany Lion and Eagles wideout Kenny Jackson — then the receivers coach at the school — encouraged him to try out again as a walk-on.
"He was the one who really took me under his wing, and kept me on my toes,” he said.
DeVan made the squad as a punt returner, getting a roster spot on the ’94-'98 teams. He was always more interested in theater, though. In school he worked at a video store and made some money modeling — that’s what he did after leaving Penn State and hitting Los Angeles. Movie buffs may be familiar with his work — he modeled for the Alcon Entertainment movie production icon, the one with the archer shooting the arrow. That’s based on DeVan.
His big break came when he was on set with his son, who had a small role in a Michael Biehn film. When actor-turned-director Biehn heard DeVan giving the boy stage directions, he asked him if he’d ever directed. That led, through Biehn’s connections, to a job directing Along Came the Devil, about demonic possession and exorcism.
There was a supernatural element to the movie that came naturally — by sheer coincidence, it seemed like everyone the cast — Jessica Barth, Bruce Davison — was from Philly.
“Jessica is from West Chester, Bruce is from Philly, and he went to Penn State. When all the pieces of the casting puzzle came together, people were convinced I was only considering actors from Pennsylvania, but that was all by chance.” he said.
If Devil 2 does as well as the first Devil, which made most of its money overseas (“It did really well in Germany and Brazil”), he wants to complete the series as a trilogy. But he has ideas for a Western, a children’s movie, and a romantic comedy.
“I still love Nancy Meyers,” he said.