The good folks at XLrator Media were kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the Mitchell Altieri directed film, Holy Ghost People. I had a blast watching and reviewing it, but something about the film stuck with me. Kentucky made international news recently after Pastor/Moron, Jamie Coots, died from a venomous snake bite. Coots was featured in “Snake Salvation”, a National Geographic reality show about Pentecostal pastors and the faith act of picking up snakes. Most of this behavior stems from Mark 16:18, that states:
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
What the snake-handling world doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that the Bible was written with this being an expression of faith. I don’t believe God wants us to challenge snakes to prove our faith. The Bible also states that any man with faith as small as a mustard seed (the smallest seed) can tell a mountain to get up and move – and it will. So, until someone pulls this off with even a small local hill, I’m sticking with my opinion that you’re a moron if you take up snakes for Jesus. Leave stuff like this to Glenn Danzig’s song titles. The rest of us will remain snake-free. So, with that digression, I give you my interview with Joe Egender.
Fister: Before your role in Holy Ghost People, what was you understanding of snake-handling? Did you have any personal experience with it? I live in Lexington, KY, and I’m sure it’s a stone’s throw in any direction outside the city.
Joe: All I knew was it existed. Then Mitchell Altieri (director) turned me on to the 1967 documentary also titled Holy Ghost People and I was blown away. As I began to delve into books and other videos on the subject, I quickly realized this is an incredibly intriguing world we were venturing into.
Fister: As an actor, how did you prepare for such an intense role? You were very charming in your portrayal of Brother Billy, a characteristic any tent preacher should have.
Joe: If you watch videos of various snake-handling preachers, most of time they are charming and funny and charismatic. They are performers. One thing we talked about from the beginning was we wanted to avoid making Brother Billy an outright evil villain. That’s not very interesting. We wanted him to be a grounded man with flaws (albeit very dark flaws!).
Nate: Looking at Brother Billy’s angle, why do you think there’s always a crowd willing to become a congregation?
Joe: Good question. I gave this a lot of thought both during the writing of the script and production. And I think the bottom line is this: life can be hard as hell. And when it is, there is a need for something or someone to help make you feel better. And sometimes, that someone is a preacher or priest or spiritual leader. And you see that person helping others feel better about life so you join the community. And hopefully you find that person’s intentions are good. But unfortunately, as we all know, this isn’t always the case.
Fister: I’m in the middle of Dead Rising 3, Joe, whose voice are you? It’s driving me nuts.
Joe: I played a character called Stitch.
Fister: You have a busy IMDb, spanning many different genres of entertainment. When you take a horror role, is it usually a free pass to bring your best crazy?
Joe: Bad guys are always more fun to play, no question about that!
Fister: Amen to that!
Fister: Standard Left Hand Horror question, Joe, what’s your favorite horror film and why?
Joe: The Shining. Kubrick, Nicholson, Scatman Cruthers – need I say more?
Fister: Do you have any horror projects planned for the New Year?
Joe: I have a supporting role in Universal’s film Mercy that comes out this year. Also, my writing/producing partner (Kevin Artigue) and I just wrapped production on a dark short film called Resistance, and we are just finishing up a military conspiracy thriller feature script that we hope to shoot in the near future.
Fister: Thanks again for participating. You were outstanding in HGP and I hope to see you in strong roles like this in the future.
Joe: Thank you… I really appreciate it, as well as the great review on your site!
The disturbing Holy Ghost People is available via VOD 2/18 and opened in theaters on 2/21.