If you like suspenseful thrillers, Devil’s Path is the film for you. It’s the latest flick from Proteus Films and the directorial debut of Matthew Montgomery. Touted as a gay thriller, it is so much more than that.
The film takes place within the confine’s of a fictional hiking path that doubles as a gay cruise area. When the main characters meet by chance, they are quickly put in a situation where they must depend on each other and realize it may have been more than chance that brought them together. I hesitate to go into any details, as spoilers would do a huge disservice to this movie. There are so many twists and turns that literally had me guessing until the very end. Just like a good roller coaster, sometimes, you do see what’s coming and it’s just as terrifying because it’s far too late.
For being a smaller, indie film, Devil’s Path has a lot of things going for it:
- The location: Filmed in the natural beauty of California the setting is easily one of the most important things in the movie as the path is almost a character itself.
- The cast:The lead characters Noah and Patrick are instantly likable and empathetic as portrayed by Stephen Twardokus and JD Scalzo (respectively). Their chemistry seems natural and not forced. It’s
clear that both characters have more than their fair share of hang ups and flaws.
- The Direction: Major props to first time director Matthew Montgomery for weaving an intricate plot with many underlying themes. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m gay myself or not- but there was a lot of emotional resonance. I found myself relating and reacting in a lot of unexpected ways. (Or is that just my inane ability to make it all about me?)
- The Script: Admittedly, some of the themes are difficult to watch. But like any good thriller, I found myself excited, scared, scarred, exhilarated… and once or twice quite frankly pissed off. The dialogue is natural and believable and you almost feel guilty being privy to the dark thoughts and memories revealed by the main characters as the story plays out. Though not a typical Hollywood one- the ending is satisfying nonetheless. And certainly one you won’t see coming. Not all films stay with you once you leave the theater. This one will.
- The Score: any thriller is only as good as it’s score and Devil’s Path is no exception. Ceiri Torjussen did an amazing job handling the music. It definitely enhanced the creepier moments and added to the eminent feeling of pooping one’s pants. I half expected the “love theme” from Deliverance to start playing. And I’m so glad it didn’t.
I have to say, as excited as I was to see this movie, it more than exceeded my expectations. I had the good fortune of being able to chat with director and co-writer Matthew Montgomery and get the dirt on his first flick.
Michael Fitzgerald Troy: How did Devil’s Path come about?
Matthew Montgomery: I was working on a short film while studying at USC. It was a gay thriller that was sort of a revenge story and mostly takes place in one location. It was then that I knew I wanted to make a feature that mostly focused on two characters and put them in a situation that they wouldn’t be able to easily get out of and instead would force them to confront the differences between each other. The movie is largely about assumptions and judgements and how these can lead to dire circumstances. I knew that I wanted to tell a very specific tale that had a moral of the story. The details of the story came from many different sources of inspiration. But Devil’s Path is a real place. There’s a hiking trail in the Catskills by the same name and is arguably considered to be the most difficult hiking trail in the country. Although we weren’t able to film at the actual Devil’s Path, I wanted to metaphorically reflect the struggle between the characters with them struggling through the terrain. And then there are some details of the story that came to me in a dream.
MFT: Can you tell us what the film is about?
Matthew Montgomery: It’s about two men who meet on a gay cruising trail in the early 90s and through a series of circumstances get chased off into the woods by a couple of thugs. However, as the movie progresses we start to discover that both of these characters might be keeping something from the other. Then it just sort of spirals out of control from there (without giving too much away). It’s a psychological thriller as opposed to a horror film, so the story mostly focuses on these two characters and their emotional and mental journey as they try and find their way out of the woods.
MFT: You also co-wrote the script with the film’s star, Stephen Twardokus (who did an excellent job). What is your working relationship with him like?
Matthew Montgomery: Working with Stephen taught me a lot about myself as a writer. Stephen and I are very similar but we also write in different styles. So the great thing was that we were able to incorporate both of our sensibilities as writers. Stephen brought in a lot of levity and depth to the story and its characters while I probably brought in more of the tense and darker moments. I feel like having Stephen and I write this together also helped us really focus on character development and backstory in terms of Noah’s character. We were able to have director-actor conversations and imbue some of that into the script.
MFT: I thought Stephen’s co-star JD Scalzo did an excellent job, as well. Where did you find him?
Matthew Montgomery: JD Scalzo came to us through the magic of auditioning. We actually went through quite an extensive process trying to cast this role. It felt like casting went on forever. But then JD came in and we were like “wow.” He just immediately had a strong sense of who Patrick was and came in making bold choices as an actor. I knew that working with him would be easy because he already understood the direction that I wanted to take his character. He’s an incredible talent.
MFT: Who was that sexy park ranger?
Matthew Montgomery: Haha. That sexy park ranger is actually our producer, Steve Callahan, and he happens to also be my husband. This ended up being a very cool experience working together as a couple. He’s a fantastic actor but he’s also one hell of a producer. The movie would not be here without him. He really believed in the project and in Stephen and I as writers. This kind of passion was exactly what the project needed.
MFT: The film seems to be getting a lot of positive feedback. Haven’t you won a few awards at film festivals?
Matthew Montgomery: Yes! Stephen Twardokus won Best Actor at California Independent Film Festival when we screened at the Castro theatre in San Francisco. JD Scalzo also won Best Supporting Actor at FilmOut San Diego. The film also won Best First Narrative Feature at FilmOut San Diego and I picked up a First Time Director Award at qFLIX Worcester, Massachusetts.
MFT: Any chance for a sequel?
Matthew Montgomery: I don’t think so. I feel like the movie is a standalone piece. It does definitely leave something open for interpretation but for the most part I would call Devil’s Path a closed story.
MFT: Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Matthew Montgomery: Not exactly. I always wanted to be an actor. When I was very little I had this crazy idea that little people lived in my TV and that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. So basically, wanting to be an actor was all I’d every known. I used to write stories that I would turn into scripts and act out for my family. So, when I moved to LA to be an actor and eventually started working as an actor, I didn’t think of myself as anything but an actor. Then I met the guys who eventually started Guest House Films, a gay independent production company, and to make a long story short, I started producing with them. It was then that I realized that I was more than just an actor. I was also a storyteller. So I wrote my first script, which was terrible. But I kept going. Eventually I went back to school and got into USC film school. It was really there that I grew as a filmmaker and started to understand my voice as a director/writer. Since then I’ve started my own production company Proteus Pictures.
MFT: Who are some of your influences?
Matthew Montgomery: Hitchcock is definitely my biggest influence. Rope is my favorite Hitchcock movie. I feel like he was really good at getting into the psychological make-up of the characters and their journey. He was also incredible at visually conveying something to the audience as opposed to telling them. There’s a reason he’s considered the Master of Suspense. So I would say that he’s by far my biggest filmmaker influence. But overall and in life in general, I would say my biggest influence is and will always be my father.
MFT: What can we expect from you in the future?
Matthew Montgomery: I’m working on a few things – all thrillers. Right now I’m spending a lot of time developing a thriller that takes place mostly on a desert road and in a desert town. The movie is called Pullover and is about two boyfriends traveling across country when one of them goes missing. I’m not sure if this will be my next movie though. I’m still in the process of making that final decision.
MFT: Tell everyone where they can see Devil’s Path?
Matthew Montgomery: It’s playing at the Laemmle in Glendale, California, from March 1st – March 7th. But it’s already available on VOD/DVD on Amazon and iTunes. You can also check out our website which is constantly being updated. Thanks so much!
Thanks so much for the interview, Matthew! (I’m going to hold you to that part in your next film!)
Make sure to check out Devil’s Path… if you dare! Follow me on Instagram (@MichaelFitzTroy).