An Exorcism Movie With Humor? 'Exeter' Director Hopes to Add "Irony" to Horror

The director shot his upcoming thriller in an actual abandoned asylum.

Marcus Nispel made his name remaking horror and genre classics, with credits including the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Michael Bay-produced remake of Friday the 13th and the 2011 redo of Conan the Barbarian.

Which is why he closely protected the development of his first original feature, Exeter. "For the first time I get to do something that is authentically something I wanted to do. It's not someone else’s story, and I didn't want to compromise it," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"I wanted to revisit exorcism, but I wanted it to happen to the kind of kids who actually watch these movies," says the director, who wrote the screenplay for the horror thriller with Kirsten Elms (Texas Chainsaw 3D). "If young people are in a situation of complete horror like that, there’s going to be a certain irony in how they deal with things, and I became very engaged with how we balance the laughter with the scares."

The film centers on a group of teenagers who go exploring in an abandoned asylum and end up summoning an evil spirit which possesses them one by one. The Hollywood Reporter exclusively debuts a clip from the thriller in which the teenagers realize there's something haunting the asylum.

Nispel shot the film in an actual abandoned asylum In Exeter, Rhode Island. "We broke open the cinderblock walls and walked inside," says the director. Over the 20-day shoot, they left undisturbed everything they found in the building, including creepy sights like a circle of wheelchairs ("I swear to god, I didn't touch it," says Nispel).

"Everything is the way we found it," says Nispel. "This the first thing I’ve ever done where I never went to a prop house."

Viva Pictures will release the film in theaters on August 14, but DirecTV first will premiere it exclusively to subscribers on July 2. "DirecTV is thrilled to premiere Marcus Nispel's latest horror film," said DirecTV senior marketing director Hanny Patel in a statement. "Exeter is sure to terrify from start to finish."

It will be the first release in DirecTV’s deal to premiere Viva films for 30 days before they hit theaters. The partnership is part of DirecTV’s new strategy to pre-release independent films, which includes a deal with distributor A24 (Slow West, Dark Places, The Witch).

Nispel meanwhile will continue to work on original projects, like his ocean-set horror Stowaway and the Charles Manson film he's developing. "When you do a franchise you’re considered the custodian of other people's dreams," he says. "I learned how much I like actually to be part of developing the projects [with Exeter], so they come from your heart."