Exorcism films are fun because they’re scary, and often, they deal with unfamiliar themes. On the other hand, they almost always include the all too familiar young woman in a tattered, dirty nightgown with ashy skin, facial wounds, and lips as dry as the Sahara, screaming demonic vitriol in a deep, guttural voice while her body contorts in unnatural ways.
Although Damien LeVeck’s The Cleansing Hour (2019 – read our review here) doesn’t shy away from many of these cliches, the film is smart in other ways, offering a fresh take on a tired subgenre that’s itching for something different and new. I was lucky enough to speak with Actress Alix Angelis, who plays Lane, a possessed young woman battling a surprise demonic exorcism that’s being streamed live, and we spoke about how she prepared for the role, what drew her horror, what’s up next, and, of course, horror movies.
PopHorror: Hi Alix! I watched The Cleansing Hour last night, and I found it very entertaining.
Alix Angelis: Hi Tiffany! I’m thrilled you enjoyed The Cleansing Hour. It was a lot of fun to make.
PopHorror: What was it like playing someone possessed?
Alix Angelis: It was like the arguments you have with yourself in your head, but magnified x10. I don’t know about you, but sometimes fighting my own demons can feel like survival of the fittest. Don’t worry, I’m in therapy.
PopHorror: How did you prepare for your role as Lane?
Alix Angelis: Damien and I talked a lot about the differences in physicality between Lane and Possessed Lane. It was really helpful for me to think of the devil as uncomfortable in this body, with a building tension to break through her skin at any moment. Lane herself, when the devil would retreat, was much more grounded. Even though panicked, she is comfortable in her own skin, with a good head on her shoulders, which is how she is able to fight back and survive. My physical theater training [at NYU Experimental Theatre Wing and Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble] played a large role in my preparation.
PopHorror:: I didn’t see a lot of horror roles on your IMDb credits. What drew you to the genre?
Alix Angelis: I think it’s an actor’s dream to play a part that allows you to play all over the court. When I read the script, I loved how far this character gets to go, and that she is a fighter. I think at its core, that’s what a lot of the horror genre is: Fighting the things that scare us, the powers that could destroy us, frightening stuff we deal with every day, played out in a heightened way that’s easier – and more fun – to digest. I think that’s why fans of this genre are so enthusiastic. They want to keep conquering the demons! It’s liberating to play characters that go to extremes and play them for an audience that’s rooting for you.
PopHorror: I read that you studied Environmental Studies in college. What made you want to be an actress/filmmaker?
Alix Angelis: I had been acting in theater from a young age and was always writing and directing plays through high school. Then, when I got to college I said, “Well, you can’t make art for a living, silly! Do something important! SAVE the WORLD!” I was, and still am, very concerned about the Climate Crisis we’re facing. It was energizing and terrifying to study the human impact on the planet. Talk about horror.
But at some point, I realized that my particular energies are better suited to connecting with people on an emotional, story-telling level, and that there is more than one way to contribute to a better world. People need clean air, clean water, and sustainable energy sources, and we should all support the engineers/scientists/lawyers/activists on those front lines, but people also need to feel connected through stories. If we can’t relate to each other, what are we saving?
PopHorror: If you weren’t making films, what do you think you’d be doing?
Alix Angelis: I’d be an environmental engineer/lawyer/activist. I try to live my life with those ideals, and hopefully, I can lead by example… though I’m far from perfect. Or, I’d be a novelist, writing about loneliness in a cheeky way and living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands.
PopHorror: If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Alix Angelis: Phoebe Waller-Bridge [L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)].
PopHorror: What are you currently working on?
Alix Angelis: I’m actually writing and directing a lot at the moment. I wrote and directed a short film called Seance-ing that’s out to festivals currently. It’s about three 13-year-old girls in the late ’90s who are betrayed by their favorite boy band.
PopHorror: What is your favorite scary movie?
Alix Angelis: I really liked The Babadook, because I felt the terror that emotions and mental health issues can put us through. I thought Jennifer Kent revealed something so tragic and powerful.