A film that explores the fear that can accompany gay cruising
Written and directed by Matthew Montgomery, Devil’s Path brings a horror perspective to the gay tradition of cruising for sex.
I caught up with Matthew Montgomery for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
Why did you decide to set this story in the 90s?
I grew up in the 90s, so I suppose there’s some childhood nostalgia for me when it comes to that decade. But when it came to really crafting out the story, setting it in the 90s came a little later in the process.
When we finally decided to make the park a gay cruising spot, it seemed natural for it to take place in the 90s since outdoor cruising was much more prevalent back then. Nowadays, you just get on an app and see who’s closest to you.
I also wanted the characters to be truly isolated. No cell phones, for example. I wondered what would happen if I left these two characters to only their primal instincts when it came to their survival.
Setting it in the 90s was also a stylistic and visual choice. I wanted a certain grainy feel.
Were you drawing on any personal experiences of traumatic cruising encounters for these characters?
I tend to try and draw from my own experiences as a writer. But, for Devil’s Path, it was the complete opposite situation. I found myself going into territory that I hadn’t gone before.
I’ve been out cruising before, but I’ve never encountered any sort of life and death situation like this. This was purely storytelling. I wanted to do something different and perhaps something that pushed the envelope just a little.
There aren’t many gay thrillers out there. Why not? I feel like there’s been this pressure to paint stories with gay characters as happy and light most of the time. I guess I feel it’s time to evolve past that, and explore genre more.
What was your casting process?
We didn’t have a huge cast to bring together, so that part was fairly simple. Stephen Twardokus was always going to play Noah, from the very beginning. For the role of Patrick, however, we went through a bit of a casting process to find the right guy. It took a while. We brought in quite a number of people. But then JD Scalzo walked in the door and that was that. It was very evident in the beginning that JD was Patrick. Both Stephen and JD are already such incredibly talented and present actors, so when you put them together it’s just absolutely magnetic.
It looks like a difficult location to film – what were some of the challenges your experienced during production?
We went in thinking that the biggest challenges we would be facing would be the physical challenges of lugging equipment around, dealing with uneven terrain, poison oak, and other things like that. We had to deal with that, yes. But by far, the biggest challenge we faced was that halfway through production we had to halt production and were evacuated because of forest fires that had spread overnight. It was apocalyptic. We woke up, and the sky was orange. So, we left and came back to LA.
By some stroke of luck, and lot of planning, we were able to make it back to the same locations a few weeks later and finish the movie. But it was pretty scary there for a while, I’m not going to lie. I could be sitting here talking about a movie that never got made.
Is this a cautionary tale about the potential dangers for gay men who go cruising for sex?
Not even a little bit. This was one of my biggest concerns going into this project – I was very concerned that it would be misconstrued as a tale about the dangers of cruising, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not to mention, I’m the last person who would be scolding anyone about cruising. Talk about ironic.
The movie is really about assumptions and perspective. It’s about how sometimes our preconceived ideas about someone or something can lead to assumptions that can ultimately then lead to dire consequences. If anything, it’s a tale about not judging other people.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Devil’s Path?
The truth is that I hope people are freaked the hell out when watching Devil’s Path. That’s what I really want. I want to hopefully make people think about what they just watched. If I could put a single word on what I hope that people feel when watching Devil’s Path, it would be conflicted.
As much as the movie is wrapped up in different themes and has a moral to the story, it’s also just meant to be entertaining and engaging.