DEVIL’S GATE (2017)
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Flick finds FBI agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) traveling to the rural town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota in search of a missing woman (Bridget Regan) and her son (Spencer Drever). Along with a local deputy (Shawn Ashmore), she decides to question the woman’s husband, Jackson Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia), who is her prime suspect, even against the warnings of the local sheriff (Jonathan Frakes). Once at his remote farmhouse, Agent Francis discovers that those actually responsible for the disappearances may be something quite otherworldly.
Directed by Clay Staub from his script he co-wrote with Peter Aperlo, this is a sci-fi flick with severe X-Files envy. The film starts out intriguing enough with the death of a stranded motorist at the booby trapped Pritchard farmhouse and that Jackson has someone…or something…locked up in his basement. Once Agent Francis and Deputy Salter get there, we soon find that the basement’s occupant is definitely someTHING and what Pritchard claims to be demons are actually extraterrestrials. From here it becomes a routine alien movie of the Mars Needs Women variety with heavy doses of Mulder and Scully conspiracy theory. We’ve seen it all before, alien/human hybrids, abducted humans and captured extraterrestrials. After a decent start, this flick degenerates into a very routine, and sometimes silly alien abduction/conspiracy flick and not an all that great one at that. There is some entertainment here and Staub is a competent director, but it’s far too familiar to really make an impact.
The cast are fine enough. Schull makes a good FBI agent. She was tough and believable in the part. Ashmore and Frakes are solid as small town deputy and sheriff respectively and Ventimiglia is also fine as a simple farmer whose sanity we question. As for the extraterrestrials, their design and prosthetic representations are well done and effective, if not familiar.
Devil’s Gate can be amusing at times, but is too derivative to really grab you. The film is technically well done, but reuses too many plot elements from previous extraterrestrial films and TV series to really stand out. The initial opening catches ones interest, but once we find out we’ve seen a lot of this on the X-Files, it loses a lot of it’s momentum.
rated 2 and 1/2 aliens.
THE RUINS (2008)
The Ruins is a an effectively creepy horror flick set deep in the jungles of Mexico that opens with a young girl huddled in the dark screaming for help, signaling us from the start that something is very wrong and setting the tone for the film. The story then focuses on four young twenty-somethings, med student Jeff (Jonathan Tucker), his girlfriend Amy (Jena Malone), Eric (Shawn Ashmore) and his girlfriend Stacy (Laura Ramsey) on vacation in Mexico and meeting a German tourist name Mathias (Joe Anderson) while at their hotel. Mathias tells them that his brother Heinrich has met a female archeologist who has taken him to some Mayan ruins and he invites them to join him in meeting his brother there the next morning. Their expedition to the ruins starts off on a disturbing note as they are intercepted by a group of gun wielding Mexican locals who seem to be very unhappy with their plans to enter the temple and kill Mathias’ friend Dimitri (Dimitri Baveas) to prove it. The remaining five flee up to the top of the temple while the gunmen set up a perimeter around it to prevent their escape but, refusing to pursue them any further. But, violent locals are the least of their worries as Heinrich is found dead at the temple’s top and soon the stranded group realize that there is something inside this temple that is a far more dangerous and hungry threat and the gun-toting locals may have good reason to not want anyone to enter the temple or leave it alive if they have. Now the group must find some way to survive, as escape or rescue seems more and more unlikely. Director Carter Smith makes good use of Scott Smith’s screenplay based on his own book and crafts a creepy and suspenseful tale of a group of young people trapped and isolated with a very unique and dangerous life form that is also cleverly conceived and a breath of fresh air from the routine serial killers and rampaging animals. The set-up provides our likable group with nowhere to run and surrounds them with a lethal entity that can’t be frightened off or hurt… something that frightens the locals so much, that they will even kill one of their own to keep it within the temple confines. Carter tensely guides us through the group’s gradual disintegration as they realize help isn’t coming and they are surrounded by something that literally thrives on their blood and is starting to claim them one by one. The attractive cast are fine, presenting a group of likable enough yet, not perfect young people and they all convey the confusion and fear of their situation well enough for it to translate to the audience. As for the lethal threat that surrounds them, director Smith and the FX team successfully give us something that has some really disturbing attributes aside from it’s need to feed and presents us with a novel and chilling ‘adversary’ that we can fully understand why it induces such fear in the locals who are aware of it’s presence. There is also some gruesome and well done gore prompted by the entities’ activities, as well as, some impromptu surgery done by our struggling survivors for reasons I won’t spoil. The film is not perfect. One begs to ask how ‘it’ became isolated in this one temple and if the locals were able to isolate it here, which has probably been their duty for centuries, why were they not able to fully destroy it. But, sometimes a little mystery can add to the fun and it is amusing to think the answer to the downfall of Mayan civilization was something a lot creepier then sickness or invaders. Overall The Ruins is a fun, disturbing and sometimes gruesome little horror flick that gives us something a bit novel and fresh to fear in the dark… and in the light. An entertaining horror with some nice, clever touches and a unique threat.
3 menaced Malones.