Netflix’s supernatural thriller, Devil in Ohio, may have left critics cold, but it has left some viewers curious about the true story that inspired it. When it comes to the true crime genre, the phrase “based on true events” is like honey for audiences.
Showrunner Daria Polatin shed some light on the matter leading up to the release of the show last December. She clarified that while the show draws inspiration from true events, it is not a documentary but rather a creative adaptation.
The series, set in a fictional Ohio town, stars Emily Deschanel as Dr. Suzanne Mathis, a psychiatrist who takes in a mysterious young patient, Mae, played by Madeleine Arthur. As the plot unfolds, it becomes apparent that Mae has escaped from a sinister satanic cult, putting Suzanne’s family in danger.
The source material for Devil in Ohio is Daria Polatin’s 2017 book of the same name, and Polatin also serves as the show’s executive producer. In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, she disclosed that the inspiration for her young-adult novel came from a true story that unfolded in Ohio. However, she emphasised that her work was fictionalised to provide creative freedom and tailored for a young adult audience, “When my producer Rachel Miller heard this true story, which took place in Ohio, she told it to me. I knew I had to tell it. I decided to start with a book. I fictionalised the story to free myself up creatively.”
Polatin remarked, “The bones of the story are true and happened, and I wanted to take that as a jumping-off point. It’s inspired by true events, but it’s not a documentary. That’s just a different kind of storytelling.”
In a separate interview with Netflix, Polatin revealed that the cult central to the series is entirely fabricated. To lend credibility to their portrayal, the production team conducted interviews with former cult members and incorporated elements from various religions and ideologies.
They created detailed documents about the cult, even a bible called the Book of Covenants, including hymns and prayers to provide a consistent reference for the entire creative team.
The costumes in the series were also thoughtfully designed to align with the characters’ backstories. Polatin explained, “The costumes are inspired by our backstories: They came from Ireland, they were farmers, they lived in West Virginia, their crops failed, [forcing them to move to Ohio].”
In essence, Devil in Ohio is a fusion of fact and fiction, inspired by real events but embellished to create a more compelling young adult thriller. You can catch the series on Netflix.