A Nefarious Interview With Author Steve Deace
The new movie Nefarious is churning up movie theaters nationwide with its stark, gripping drama about spiritual warfare inside the soul of a death-row serial killer about to be put to death. The Stream’s John Zmirak called Nefarious “The Best Movie I’ve Seen in Years,” while columnist Chenyuan Snyder affirms that “Nefarious Delivers.” Other Stream staff have enjoyed it or plan to see it soon. So we decided to interview the man behind the story, Blaze TV commentator and author of A Nefarious Plot, Steve Deace.
John Zmirak: Nefarious, which you produced, is based on a novel you wrote. How different is the film version from the book?
Steve Deace: This movie serves as a prequel of sorts to my book A Nefarious Plot. Several lines from it are quoted in the film, and the Nefarious of my book is the one in the film, albeit with Sean Patrick Flannery’s personal touch. But the movie will show you the origin of my book. In 2020 I wrote a sequel to it called A Nefarious Carol, which we will also adapt into a film if this one is successful.
Please give us the “elevator pitch” for the movie, that people can use to decide if they want to see it, and bring their friends?
An atheist psychiatrist, who thinks he has all of life’s largest questions figured out, is about to learn there is much more to this death row inmate he’s assigned with evaluating. And in the process he’ll also learn he doesn’t have all the answers to the cosmos after all.
The Enemy Didn’t Want this Film Made
A Breitbart column by the director and screenwriter recounted a staggering number of bizarre, mysterious obstacles that were thrown at the Nefarious team during production. You yourself were hit with an exotic health crisis at the peak moment for promoting the movie. That reminds me of how the famous pastor, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, would be physically attacked by unseen forces — the night before some great sinner came to him to repent. Can you talk about all this and what you draw from it?
You mean you don’t think it’s a mere coincidence I got an excruciatingly painful MRSA infection in a very sensitive area the very week the movie was coming out? Yeah, neither do I. From the beginning, we have been beset with challenges of all kinds — health, financial, distribution, etc. — because it’s clear the Enemy doesn’t want the truth of who he really is and what he’s really about to come out. But God has been faithful. All we have done is endured, and trusted in faith we were making the movie He wanted us to. He has rewarded that faithfulness.
The MPAA Sabotaged the Film with an Unmerited “R” Rating. Fight Back
The film is doing very well for a “Christian” movie. How well? Do people need to rush out and support it this week, to keep its momentum going?
We shocked Hollywood by still finishing in the top 10 despite numerous holdover blockbusters and a glut of five other new films debuting the same weekend. It was The Lord of the Flies to even get screens. Now the battle is on to keep our screens. We need strong word of mouth. Now that believers have seen the film and know what it’s truly about, we are hoping the Church embraces it and allows it to grow viral. We’ve done all we can do. Now we need ambassadors.
One thing suppressing ticket sales among its core audience is the “R” rating. Having watched the film carefully twice, I cannot fathom how it deserved that rating — considering that Harry Potter movies with visible demons, witches, and gruesome monsters are all PG-13. The rating strikes me as sabotage by the industry. How did they rationalize that rating? Did your team consider fighting it? What age do you consider appropriate for seeing it?
The godless MPAA clearly gave us the R-rating specifically to hurt us with our home team. And it initially has worked. But now that enough believers saw it opening week for it to survive, it is time for the Church — especially youth groups — to embrace our movie, and most especially its core message. Which really comes down to this: Satan hates us because God loves us. Much like my book, I think anyone 13 or older is old enough to process the movie. I’d even consider young adults at 12, if they’re mature for their age.
From Augustine to Josh McDowell
What were your inspirations for writing it? Which theological authorities did you consult?
The book is the culmination of all theological training/mind renewing I had undergone in my faith walk at the time I wrote it back in 2016. So everyone from Augustine to Josh McDowell influenced my writing. I also drew on Paradise Lost to try add some context to the Biblical narrative without (hopefully) violating it, as well as C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters. In fact, I wrote my book to serve as a sequel/homage to his.
I’ve written here that we Christians need to be more explicit in viewing and talking about “culture war” issues as fronts in spiritual warfare. The evils we face are so grotesque and powerful, we must focus on the dark forces behind them to avoid either 1. demonizing their advocates or 2. whitewashing the evils. Do you agree? Did that play a part in your conceiving Nefarious?
Absolutely, but I also think we need to do so with the right motivation, because we can turn anything into an idol. Lewis once said “aim for earth and you will gain nothing, but aim for heaven and you will get earth thrown in.” We engage the culture war not so much to “save America” specifically as we do to save Americans. This is where the battle rages hottest. And as Luther once pointed out, no matter how faithful you are elsewhere, if you fail to engage the battle at its hottest point you are a coward.
These are the flashpoints where we live. Where foolish hearts are darkened. Where our neighbors, whom we’re called to love as ourselves, are given over to their own depraved minds. Where generation of dysfunction and destruction originate and perpetuate. Since this is where the darkness is, this is where we must bring the light.
Our Enemy and Our Friends
What was the most encouraging experience in bringing this film to the screen? What was the most dispiriting or disappointing?
We often discuss spiritual warfare strictly from the perspective of what the darkness is doing to us, but throughout this process we saw God glorify Himself. Open doors we couldn’t ourselves, introduce us to talented people we didn’t even know, find us resources we needed and couldn’t find. I think, frankly, that’s one of the reasons I got hit with this MRSA infection leading up to release. The Enemy couldn’t overcome God’s favor/anointing upon this movie, so he took a pound of flesh (literally) out of me instead. It sucked, it hurt beyond belief at times. But in the end, we count it all joy to suffer for the Name.
For people who want to convince their pastors or church groups to promote Nefarious, what would be your short message?
Tell them what you saw when you saw the movie, and how it impacted you and those you saw it with. Bypass our subversive marketing, which frankly we concocted to convince Ninevites who love horror movies to come to our film and hear the truth like they haven’t heard it before. God loves them, too. So this movie may look and sound like that which promotes the Enemy’s narrative, but as you know after seeing it boldly proclaims ours. You’ll even get to hear a high lord of Hell look into the camera and admit, “The Cross was our greatest mistake.” Who doesn’t want to hear the lamentations of their routed enemies?
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”