‘Nefarious’ Director Declares: ‘The Devil Attacks, but God Protects and Defends’
Despite recalling power outages, car crashes and demonic infestation on the set of the Hollywood movie, Cary Solomon says he’s ‘never gonna retire.’
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Directing an exorcism movie is not on everyone’s résumé.
But, now, it’s on Cary Solomon’s.
Released in April 2023, Nefarious is a horror film written and directed by Chuck Konzelman and Solomon. Based on Steve Deace’s 2016 novel A Nefarious Plot, the plot revolves around a psychiatrist (Jordan Belfi) who must determine if a convicted death-row inmate (Sean Patrick Flanery) is faking his alleged demonic possession.
Audiences have taken to Nefarious — the film has grossed $5.5 million so far — and scored highly in the all-important word-of-mouth recommendation; yet some movie critics have savaged the film: “Preachy propaganda for right-wing beliefs,” “a Christo-fascist manifesto,” “a Christian and Conservative propaganda piece” are just some of the volleys from the cinematic critics targeting a movie that dared to take faith and evil seriously.
Solomon expected little else. “Totally manipulated, like all of the media,” he observed of the critical reaction from some. “If anything is morally good, then they say it is bad. If it is bad, they say it is good.” (Read a positive take on the film here; see Register coverage in “Related Stories” below.)
If this is the pushback to the release of Nefarious, one wonders what the production experience was like?
“It’s nonstop,” explained Solomon of the troubles, listing quite a litany of disaster. “Nothing works. Everything electrical fails. No email. No cell coverage, even though you have five bars. Equipment failures. Car crashes. Accidents. Unjust union strikes. Immoral business practices used against you. Every possible problem you can imagine. Dissent within your own team. Arguments at home. Suppression in every way. Your building’s roof gets torn off — I mean completely torn off — while you’re in post-production. Every time you show the movie, fire alarms start going off, or the projectors don’t work ...”
Solomon added: “And this is before all the demonic physical manifestations.”
Consequently, the production had a Catholic priest “on set, full time,” as well as what Solomon describes as “a ministry team.” He relates how there was even an exorcism performed in a room where the crew was shooting. “There were sounds or voices coming out of the couch; the light in the room was unexplainably flickering on and off; the cameras were digitally corrupted, and the sound machine just died.” All of these manifestations, he said, ceased when the priest commanded what was there, “Bow now before the holy and terrible name of Jesus” before concluding the prayers of exorcism.
“The devil is real,” Solomon concluded, “but so is God. Faith is stronger than fear. Good is more powerful than evil.”
So, who is Director Solomon?
“I grew up in Brooklyn, New York — Flatbush, to be exact. We lived on Kings Highway and East 15th Street. I miss those times. Unfortunately, my mom and dad got a divorce when I was young, and that’s when my mom took me out to Wayne, New Jersey, and that’s how I met Chuck, my business partner. He was the kid next door, and we instantly became best friends.”
His friend, and later business partner and frequent collaborator, Konzelman was to be pivotal in Solomon’s life course.
“One day, I got this crazy desire to go make movies. I didn’t understand what the Holy Spirit was at that time, but it definitely took hold of me,” he said. “Chuck and I were in a different business than the movie business, and we were doing well, but when the Lord wants something, he gets it. So there I was on fire with the Spirit, and Chuck and I were speaking at a convention in Philadelphia. I had just got off stage, and now it was Chuck’s turn to speak, so I went to the lunch room to wait for him to finish. Somehow, he found me there. He sat down and looked at me, and out of nowhere, I said, ‘Do you want to go make movies?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Yes.’ It was profound. We never had the desire or thought to do it, but then, boom! Crazy. Within a couple weeks, we were in Hollywood.”
So Konzelman and Solomon came to Hollywood and, inevitably, experienced pushback.
“They hate us,” reported Solomon. “And we wear that as a badge of honor. They call us ‘Christians’ like it’s a bad word. They do everything in their power to destroy what we are doing. The fight is fierce. We are surrounded. We’re low on supplies. We have very little ammunition left. And the enemy is ready to put an end to us — but we have Jesus.” And then he added, sounding almost as a man who is prepared for any eventuality, “In the end, ‘every knee shall bend and every tongue confess.’ We might not be around to see it, but we know we will win.”
“It’s not by choice,” he said. “But if that’s what we need to do, then so be it. Unfortunately, Christians have ceded the culture to the enemy. We lock out the world, thinking we will be safe from the evil that abounds. Sadly, that only empowers the darkness.”
Christians should, instead, he suggested, “rebuke evil; cast out demons; resurrect the dead. … And yet, we don’t even try. We barely preach the Gospel. … It’s time for us to go amongst the lost and save them. This is our calling. When we see evil, rebuke it; fight it. Show it for what it is, which is why we made Nefarious.”
Solomon converted to the Catholic faith in 1997.
“I prayed and asked God what I should become, and he was very specific with me,” said the movie director of his faith journey. “I had many miraculous things occur. I researched and studied religion and faith, and, to be totally honest, I don’t believe anyone should be anything other than Catholic.”
Solomon added: “I just don’t see how people can’t see it. The Catholic Church is the one true faith. It’s all there. Period. End of story.”
“I believe most men want to build something,” said Solomon of his faith-focused philosophy. “When you are young, you want to build it for yourself, if you are lucky. When you are older, you want to build it for Jesus. Chuck and I try never to say ‘No’ to the Lord. We believe that our very being is to do what the Lord wants. When he wants us to stop, we’ll stop. Then we’ll do whatever else he tells us to do.” There is a finality in what he said next: “We’re never gonna retire. Hopefully, we die in his service.”
When asked what part faith plays in his creative process, he laughed. Choosing cinematic subject matter is a straightforward process for Solomon and Konzelman, according to Solomon: “We pray on everything: He talks, we listen; he walks, we follow; he asks, we do.”
“Tell great stories. Make great movies,” he replied, with an emphatic simplicity, when asked how he prevents his films from becoming “message movies,” films heavy on moral improvement but considerably lighter on drama.
But he is too much of a seasoned professional to be under any illusions about the Herculean task that is modern filmmaking.
“Making a movie is grueling. It’s long, hard work,” he admitted. “You learn to have faith. If you don’t, you either get broken or destroyed; or, worse, you change sides because of the promises of the world. Imagine trying to do good and everyone and everything are against you. But in those moments, if you believe, if you have faith, you find a moment; it might only be a couple seconds — and then you think about Jesus and what he went through — and, then, suddenly, you realize you’re fighting the fight. And you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. You just keep carrying the cross. You just keep fighting.”
“If after you’ve read this interview and you still want to go into film, you’re our type of guy or gal, or just a glutton for punishment!” Solomon joked, when asked for advice for young Catholics who feel called to enter the film world. “Although everything that I’ve said here is as true as it is terrible to go through, I want you to know that we never once had anyone get hurt. We had eight car crashes in the first 11 days of shooting, but not one person was harmed in any way. What I’m trying to tell you is: The devil attacks, but God protects and defends.”
Solomon is an unusual filmmaker, to say the least, as compelling in person as his movies are on screen, possibly more intriguing still.
Even after everything he went through to bring Nefarious to the screen, he remains adamant: “Jesus never abandoned us. We always found a way. Money always appeared. Solutions somehow arose. We never had to compromise. We never gave up. We wore the armor of God. We survived. Yes, we were put through the refining fire, but we are his refined silver.” Then he added in conclusion, “And if asked to do so again, we would do it all over for him.”
Nefarious is now streaming.