‘History of Evil’ Director Explains How His Mother Inspired The Film

Horror

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History Of Evil

Every day feels like another chapter in the current dystopian hellscape we’re living in. Entire populations are massacred, basic human rights are constantly revoked, and if you aren’t a rich white man, you’re screwed. It sounds like something out of a movie, right? I mean, director Bo Mirosseni sure did, which is why he wrote and directed the new horror thriller History of Evil.

Read the full synopsis below:

Dread Central spoke with Mirosseni and the film’s stars Jackie Cruz and Paul Wesley about the very real horrors of the film, bringing your work home with you, and how the Iranian Revolution inspired Mirosseni.

Dread Central: Well, I’m so stoked to talk with the three of you about this film, which is unfortunately incredibly prescient to our current time. But Bo, I wanted to start with you. I know that History of Evil is inspired by your own upbringing and your family’s past in Iran. I wanted to hear more about taking that pass and putting it into a horror film.

Bo Mirosseni: So basically the script originally started out as a family drama set kind of around the revolution in the ’70s in Iran. My mom is to this day still very active. My dad, not so much, but back then they were both very active against the regime in Iran, just like the brutal dictatorship. So I wanted to do something with that and how their parenting impacted raising me and my sister. I started writing that script and it was moving forward as this family drama. But I love horror and I love the genre, so I was like, “How can I spice this up a little bit and bring something else to it?”

So I was trying to figure out a way to make this sort of relatable to what’s going on today, but also putting in genre elements. So History of Evil just organically started developing into this story about a family on the run in near-future America. The film has taken so many iterations, but essentially the bones of it was a family on the run ending up in a house that’s got a really dark past. But a lot of the malicious stuff was mirrored from the initial drafts I had written of the Iranian regime back in the ’70s, breaking into houses, checking for papers, checking for people, hiding, that kind of stuff. 

DC: Wow. That’s got to be a fascinating experience for you to use your parents’ experiences in that regime, but also see how it’s still mirrored today, but also writing a movie that’s placed in the future. It’s got to be, pardon my language here, a mindfuck in a way.

BM: Yeah, I mean for me, the scariest parts of the film when I was writing it and even watching it now are the more grounded set pieces, the milita showing up, them getting through the checkpoint, trying to get out safely. All that stuff to me is the scariest part of History of Evil. And I wasn’t actually born when the [Iranian] revolution was happening. I was born after, but my sister was born. So just talking to her and trying to see what she went through and to my parents. It was scary because it’s kind of what was happening with the Woman Freedom movement in Iran recently, with people rebelling against the government of Iran now, was the same thing as then. And it’s a scary authoritarian regime. They don’t care about the people. They don’t care what their opinions are.

What’s really scary was when I was writing it, I realized there were so many similarities to what’s happening in this country. That was insane to me. And I stumbled across that as I was writing it. There are a lot of similar factions and groups of people that were pro-government, pro-censorship, pro-authoritarianship. That was scary. 

DC: Jackie, your character is grappling with her role as a revolutionary and a mother. There’s a tension between what she used to be and what she needs to become. I’m curious about what it was like for you, Jackie, to play this role and experience it as a woman who is living in contemporary America.

Jackie Cruz: I just became a mother while filming this, just three months before. So it was intense already. Just when you become a parent, they’re the most important thing in the world. You want to make them proud and they’re firsthand in your life. So whatever you’re speaking, whatever you’re showing, whatever you’re teaching them, that’s what they learn. So I have to balance work and being a mother, and it was the same with Allegre because she had this intense political resistance. She was trying to speak up and be a voice to these people. And she also was a mother. But she was arrested because she spoke up. 

It’s so hard. So even just working as an actress and being a mom at home, it’s just really hard. It was just working in New Orleans with Bo, trying to make it right because I was very inspired by his mother. I’ve worked a lot with the Justice League and Carmen Perez and a lot of women who did the Women’s March. So I wanted to make them proud. And they were also someone that inspired me for the character as well. I mean, Carmen will bring her baby to marches. We were at the border marching with her baby just right there crying and people getting arrested in front of us. You know what I’m saying?

So it felt very, very real to me. And making a movie like History of Evil, it is speaking up because this is what I believe in as well. So putting a voice to Allegre, it’s a beautiful thing. So I hope I did it justice. I’m very proud of the film. I’m excited I got to work with Bo and Paul. It was my first lead role, so I’m just very excited.

DC: That’s so cool to play such a complicated, weird character for your first lead feature and a feature. I’m curious if it feels gratifying even more because of what we are going through now politically. It’s got to feel good as an actor to be able to act through something that speaks close to your heart politically.

JC: I was still a prisoner, but it was a political prisoner. Different color jumpsuit. That was pretty cool. I grew as an actor, definitely a hundred percent and becoming a mother, and it’s just wham. It was all at once. Then the movie had to be shot in 20 days, 19 days during COVID. Thanks to Bo and Paul, I feel like I made it happen. 

DC: Yeah. Well then Paul, you also have a lot going on in this movie. For you as an actor, what that was like and how different it was from anything else you’ve done before in playing this guy, this dad who’s trying to keep it together, but perhaps isn’t doing so well?

Paul Wesley: Yeah, well, it was a very challenging role because the way he starts at the beginning of History of Evil is certainly not how he ends up, which is what every actor dreams of. We all want arcs and we all want to play different emotions. We shot this in New Orleans. New Orleans is a bit of a haunted city. Bo and I were roommates in a haunted house. It was hilarious. Literally very creepy haunted house, very unsettling, ghost tours in front of it all the time.

DC: Wait, where did you stay in New Orleans?

PW: A house that used to be owned by or still owned by Francis Ford Coppola. And he rents it out occasionally to people. It’s very old, but it’s haunted beyond haunted. It’s from the 1700s. So the environment sort of allowed me to be there, I guess, emotionally. Ron is a guy who, in the beginning of the movie, you think he’s strong, but he’s actually quite weak on the inside and he’s vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation. This spirit, which was in this home, just ate away at him slowly. And yeah, Ron unraveled.

I mean, it was an intense shoot. I got COVID in the middle of the shoot. Bo got COVID in the middle of the shoot. We had to shoot my stuff in a matter of seven days. Bo had to direct out of his car using a monitor and a walkie-talkie. It was nuts. It was a crazy shoot. 

BM: I showed up to set one day and by around 11:00 AM I was like, “I’m not feeling well.” So they took me outside, they did a COVID test, came back positive, they did another one just in case was positive. They threw me in a van with a monitor and I was like, “This is terrible. I can’t direct like this. I need to be next to my actors, I need to be talking to my crew.” Then they were like, “We actually have to send you home.” That’s even worse.

So I was in the haunted house with Paul with a monitor and my cell phone directing. It was a bit of a nightmare, but we made it work. And yeah, I think this shoot had many challenges, but I don’t know, in some ways, those challenges also helped me at least be more scrappy and come up with ideas to get around these obstacles that ultimately paid off in a creative way. So maybe it was a blessing in disguise. 

DC: Bo, History of Evil is an interesting film that talkes about men, but also how men treat women. But as a male director, why was this particular topic so important to you, especially as a male director? Is there a thought process behind that? 

BM: My mom is, she’s very big into women’s rights activism, and she’s always going to the UN and these marches and all this stuff. So being raised by someone like that I think inherently is part of me and comes out. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily my intention in the beginning to create this character that’s showing this toxic masculine energy. It just started to kind of come out that way towards the end of a couple of my drafts.

Even on set working with Paul and Jackie, the character just organically started to take shape in that way. I mean, it was on the paper, but I think Paul took that and basically put a magnifying glass on it and made it more clear and defined that this is who this guy is. 

DC: Your mom sounds like a badass. 

BM: Yeah, she’s super cool. When I was younger I’d be like, “So what? Men are evil? Men are bad? Is that what you’re trying to say?” And she’d have to explain it. But obviously, now that I’m older, I get everything and I get the nuances of it. But I think for me it was really important to show that because we do live in an age where there is this annoying sort of toxic masculinity where big muscles, being super strong, revving your car at the green light shows “toughness”, but are you actually weak inside?

That’s kind of what Ron’s character is, right? It’s like he wants to be in charge. He doesn’t want people to disagree with him. He doesn’t want people telling him what to do.

DC: Paul, you touched on it a little bit, but what it’s like for you to really tap into a very dark side of yourself and live there for a bit?

PW: Yeah, I took it home a little bit and felt depressed for a month while shooting. I don’t know, I was a little bit off, and took a little time to recover. But yeah, everybody has their own approach. And frankly, I don’t even know if I have an approach. It’s just for this movie, it was less about being evil and more about actually trying to make it relatable to myself and try to find how am I vulnerable. So I wanted to sort of try to make it personal. And that’s a very difficult thing when you have an elevated circumstance. Any genre, frankly, whether it’s supernatural or a thriller like this, you have to try to ground it. My whole goal was just to ground the performance because that’s the only way it’s going to be believable. 


History of Evil is available now on Shudder and AMC+.

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