I TRAPPED THE DEVIL (2019)
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Spooky flick finds Matt (A.J. Bowen) and his wife Karen (Susan Burke) going to the family house on Christmas night to visit Matt’s emotionally troubled brother Steve (Scott Poythress). They arrive to find the house in disarray and Steve insisting they leave. Matt refuses to go and soon they find out Steve has someone locked behind a door in the cellar…someone he claims is The Devil.
Flick is atmospherically directed by Josh Lobo from his own script. There are some very spooky moments here, especially when we are in the cellar and near that door. He uses Bryce Holden’s lighting and Ben Lovett’s really unsettling score to maximum effect in building a mood of dread and foreboding. The voice on the other side of the door sounds human, but there is something about it that makes Matt and Karen…and us…unsure. Does Steve really have Old Scratch trapped behind the cellar door? If anything holds this flick back a bit is that the dialogue sequences can get a bit tedious even for a film well under 90 minutes. The premise provides very little opportunity for action, so there is a lot of talk between the chilling moments, and it needed to be more involving. Steve’s babbling does indeed lay down doubt of his sanity, but also can get a bit annoying at times. It’s when things get creepy, like with Steve’s oddly behaving TV, that this film really works. The cast are fine, though Scott Poythress’ Steve could have been more intense, and there is a really unsettling and blood-spattered finale.
Overall, this was a really unnerving flick at times, though not consistently. Writer/director Josh Lobo knows how to build atmosphere and tension, but could make his dialogue sequences more gripping. An original idea that is certainly worth a look. May not be perfect, but is really effective when it is working.
3 (out of 4) Christmas trees…it is a Christmas film after all.
THE RITUAL (2017)
Based on a book by Adam Nevill, this chiller finds four friends traveling deep into the Swedish wilderness on a hiking excursion while mourning the death of a fifth member of their group. Deep in the woods they find a supernatural entity presides there, one worshiped as a deity by the locals and who feeds on the mental…and physical…pain of it’s sacrifices…and anyone wondering into it’s territory qualifies as a sacrifice.
Film, directed by David Bruckner (the Amateur Night segment of V/H/S) from Joe Barton’s script, which is based on Nevill’s novel, evokes mixed feelings. On one hand it is basically The Blair Witch Project meets The Wicker Man (original version, of course) and thus is very familiar. On the other hand, Bruckner does conjure up some spooky sequences and the film has a very unsettling visual style, especially in the last act when it’s wendigo-like deity makes it’s appearance. There are scenes directly lifted from The Blair Witch Project with symbols found carved on trees, strange formations made from sticks and antlers and characters screaming in the distance as something unseen drags them away. There is a spooky cabin in the woods and even a witch. We do, however, also get some gory stuff with animals and people found gutted and hanging from trees and some very unsettling dream sequences, especially from lead Luke (Rafe Spall) who feels guilty over his friend’s death. It turns full blown into The Wicker Man in it’s last act, when the surviving hikers are taken to a village lost in time, where they are to be sacrificed to whatever lurks among the trees. Once the thing shows up, Bruckner gets some good effect from the spirit creature’s look and ferocity and the fight to escape it by the remaining characters. The movie is atmospheric and the small cast perform their clichéd roles well. There is a spooky score by Ben Lovett and some really effective cinematography from Andrew Shulkind to add to it’s overall effectiveness.
This film was a bit hard to rate as it is very effective in terms of it’s atmosphere, it’s spooky visuals and some effectively creepy moments from director Bruckner, but constantly reminds us of other movies. It does use the familiar elements to do it’s own thing, but also borrow heavily from some widely renown films. It’s definitely worth a look, but go in knowing you’ve seen a lot of it before. Also stars Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier and Sam Troughton as Luke’s three friends. Film is currently streaming on Netflix.
Rated 3 deer.