Have you ever wondered if there is life beyond the stars? Is the green Martian folklore just an old tale told around the campfire to scare kids out of their wits, or is all of it true? Jeremy Berg is the writer/director of the newest extra terrestrial film, called The Device, that takes on the question we all have asked ourselves… is there life out there? After watching this film I was chillingly surprised at what I had witnessed, and had the feeling of penitence. The film takes place at a cabin in the woods of Washington while two sisters are saying their final goodbye to their deceased mother. While in the woods they come across a black circular object that has a strange power encompassing it. There has been a mysterious secret behind the cabin that has been hush-hush throughout their family for many years. Abby and her sister Rebecca grab their new treasure and bring it back to the cabin to show Abby’s fiancé, Calvin, who only sees dollar signs for the device. Little do they know that the device brings more than they could ever imagine as it opens a portal to very traumatizing nightmares and nosebleeds. What really struck me about this film was the emotion and excellent performances from the three main characters, Angie DiMarco, Kate Alden, and David S. Hogan. You are probably asking Who? And you are right, these are not red-carpet Hollywood actors, but they bring their “A” game in this film. Every performance was believable, trembling, and riveting. The un-credited creatures were brilliantly depicted through the foggy and dream like sequences and, quite honestly, traumatizing. It reminded me of seeing the film Fire in The Sky back in 1993 with the very graphic and blood curdling probing sequence. The buzzing score also gave the sensation of disorientation that worked perfectly with the fuzzy placement of the aliens, and what it would be like if someone was abducted and probed.
With this circular device lingering around the cabin, strange anomalies start to occur such as graphically persistent nightmares, nosebleeds, headaches, and memories from Rebecca’s past. As the characters’ sanity slowly begin to dissipate at the hands of these dark forces a once broken relationship between the sisters becomes tightly knit in order to stay alive. Calvin slowly indulges in these sinister forces and becomes quite the adversary, much like Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. As the nightmares continue to occur almost every night, and become more realistic, Abby is at wits end and refuses to stay at the cabin any longer. She reaches out to a family member and discovers the family “hidden” secret and why no one has spoken of it for many years. The really interesting part of this film are the nightmares. They may not be nightmares at all, they may be depictions of real life scenarios that occur in the quiet and tucked away evergreen trees. There is quite a surprise at the end of the movie that prods the audience’s attention with a nod to the old X-Files and black and white Twilight Zone episodes.
This isn’t your normal alien movie. It’s more about a broken family that comes together under heartbreaking circumstances to take on forces that are out of their control. This is from the protagonist viewpoint and it stands out to compared to many science fiction movies of our time. Jeremy Berg and The October People bring us yet another astounding film that doesn’t need a huge budget to get the point across. The phenomenal cast, score, and darker premise makes this independent film stand out compared to many competitors of its genre. It was my pleasure to sit down and talk to Mr. Berg about this film, his thoughts, background, and inspiration behind this cinematic piece.
Jeremy Berg (JB): The distributer who released our first film, The Invoking, which I also directed, was interested in what else we had and could make. I had this kernel of an idea, that The Device became, which basically is these people go into the woods and find this object. How does the discovery change the relationships and what do they discover from this? It was very simple, but they really liked the idea, and we went with it.
NL: There is a disturbing concept in this film that involves aliens. Was there an overall vision of what these creatures would look like? Most films use CGI these days, but this film used practical effects and looked more realistic. Who played the alien?
JB: Yeah the alien is all practical effects and is great because I love this side of the effects. We designed the creature, it was a cool experience, and new for me. The idea behind the creature was to have the classic grey look, but at the same time, make it unique to the film, and make it more intimidating. The character is much taller than normal and we wanted to bring the physicality to the role in a way that the alien looms over the actors. It really added to the sense of dread over the actors and intimidates them. I wanted to make it more of a monster, but at the same time, bring up the classic nostalgia of the grey alien. It was a local actor and his name is Gabe, he’s in a lot of short films and is a dancer. He has a great physicality to him and that was sort of the thing I was looking for when casting the creature in terms of height, being tall and thin to the role. At the same time, I wanted someone who could move, how can he impart this danger and unworldliness, which is important to the role, with not having any lines. He is 6’5 and really intimidating to look at on screen.
NL: This isn’t the first film that you have worked with Angela DiMarco and David S. Hogan. What made you go that route instead of other actors?
JB: I worked with them on a short film in a 48-hour film contest. You basically have to write the script, shoot the film, edit, do the music and everything in 48 hours. I worked on this right before The Device became a reality. That was the first time working with them, they are super professional, super talented, and bring a lot of emotion. I enjoyed the experience with them and they are really great people. Going from that into The Device, when we got the green light to move forward, I knew it would be great to work with them again. We already had that sort of chemistry and short hand working with the previous short film, so we brought them in, and only role that was left for auditioning was the role of Rebecca. Which luckily we saw a lot of great actors in the Seattle area and there is a lot of talent here. Luckily, we found Kate Alden and was fantastic because she has the intensity to project emotion and not go over the top. I think it was great with the character of Rebecca as she had this internal trauma that she has to keep hidden from the world.
NL: The movie is focused more on the characters that are affected by the device with ONLY short glimpses of the extra terrestrials. Why is that OR who chose to go that route?
JB: I really love stories about alien abduction but find them to be lacking at times, and the reason I could put my finger on it, the characters a lot of the time can’t be proactive. It’s key in a film to be proactive and be able to create their own paths, but abduction films, you can’t do that and are at the mercy of the aliens. They can do whatever they want and show up whenever they want, which creates a lot of fears of vulnerability and violation. The Device gets thrown into the mix where this object is a main function of the plot and watching these characters and their relationship. You are watching this family and all of their intense secrets that they keep hidden and watch it come to the surface through this device, and how it changes their relationship. I thought that was a way to make the characters more proactive in how they deal with the situation.
NL: The cinematography, score, and acting is precise throughout the film and touches heavily on alien abduction. Do you personally believe in alien abduction or is it just an urban myth?
JB: I do, yes. I did a lot of reading and watching movies about it growing up. I used to read the Time Life magazine back in the 80’s about aliens with great stories and artwork. I know people that have abduction stories, but personally never had one, thank god for that! My mother had a close encounter experience where she saw UFO’s land while out late at night with my father. I was always curious about that and remember asking her about it. Some of those stories made their way into this movie and what Rebecca ended up telling in the movie. Obviously it’s greatly dramatized, so it’s not an accurate depiction of what happened, but the little stories my mom experienced made their way into Rebecca’s story.
NL: Are there any films/TV shows that inspired you for this film, such as Ridley Scott’s Alien or the X-Files?
JB: Absolutely! X-Files is hard to beat in terms of alien abduction stories and was a huge influence growing up. In terms of movies, Communion was a huge inspiration and loved the Communion book. Also, Fire in The Sky is great, as far as the abduction scene it’s really hard to beat because of how terrifying it was. We were able to get the writer of Fire in The Sky for this movie and he also wrote the TV series in the 90’s called Intruders. He’s a great guy and we were able to get him to do some commentary for the DVD release of The Device. Alien abduction is his expertise and it’s exciting to have him talk about his movies and his connection to the alien world.
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