At the Devil's Door (2014) - I have not been writing in this blog for the last couple months. Work for me is doing quality assurance at a software company and we have been going full tilt on a project. After next week that project will have launched and hopefully the 50+ hour weeks will slow down and I get start gearing up and doing more reviews. It will be Holiday season always a tougher time to get movies in but also a fun time for seasonal horror. Then in February attending the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. What I am saying is although I have been negligent I do look forward to getting back on track which means watching and writing about the genres I love.
This film being reviewed here is the stories of the people targeted by a demon for possession. This possession includes supernatural rape, violence and unwanted pregnancy. It is structurally unusual switching and mixing the protagonist through the film until it finally settles after about the one hour mark on the character who will finish as the protagonist. Early on the story is an origin story of how the demon comes to target a young woman named Hannah (Ashley Richards). She is a troubled teen who while on vacation meets a boy. In an period of her life where she is pushing against boundaries she is convince by the young man to go the a guy where she can sell her soul to the devil ( and get $500). The ritual of being chosen is nicely done but may not have been essential. I think the demon would have been fine with any child bearing woman and it did not matter that later victims never made a deal with the devil. Still the "show" is essential to create mood and weight to the story. The girl is chosen and then goes down to the crossroad (any will do I think) and say her name.
We will rejoin her later at home where she is in her room where she is trying on her new red shoes purchased with her ill gotten cash. We have the PG-13 demon rape scene which consist of her pushing her hands towards her crotch once and then being lifted in the air while struggling and screaming. When dropped hard she looks injured or dead. There is nothing exploitative about this scene, fully dressed, trying for a certain MPAA rating, the scene gives you just enough to let you know what happened without pushing moral buttons. There was a time when this scene would have included her shirt being ripped, in close up, then her screaming face as we the audience hears more ripping sounds. The horrible sounds of her pain as she is raped, finishing with a shot of her partially exposed ass as she cries a ball. That horror being about the repulsion of the act in graphic detail. This is not that kind of film though so instead you get the idea without the exploitation.
Inexplicably the film shifts to the story of Liegh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) introducing her as a caring older sister to Vera (Naya Rivera) and a hard working real state agent. All the necessary information is present in these scenes. A lonely woman who can't have children she crosses paths with the house that Hannah once lived in. I use the word inexplicably in this part of the movie because either writer / director Nicholas McCarthy or editors Bill Neil and Jake York decided to cut between character building for Leigh as she meets the people selling the house, parents with a red herring troubled teen girl named Charlene, and the rest of the Hannah origin story. It is designed to bleed information out slowly about why the creepy haunting stuff is happening. It does that but the side effect is that you are never quite sure who the story is about. Thinking it is probably Leigh since we follow her around quite a bit in scary situations. Then at an hour into the story this all changes what it does is mix the first and second acts never allowing the viewer to connect with the characters. There certainly enough spooky stuff in the flashbacks to Hannah for this to be her story. In the end it may be about the demon but that is never quite developed fully. So the first hour is Hannah in the past Leigh in the present, and then there is a turn.
Vera becomes the focus of the film as she investigates what happened to her sister. It is an awkward switch in the the first act is a shared story and then the second is the investigation and all three pieces of the tale have different leads. Vera though needs to find out what happened to Hannah and then Charlene and so it is still necessary to keep the flashback scenes part of the second act of the film. Once all the back story about Hannah is done the film sticks mostly with the Vera story through the climax. The strange structure was disruptive to the viewer never really creating someone we can cheer for. Sure there are a great deal of scary material in the flashbacks but it was not as enjoyable with out main character to cheer for. Vera at the end of the second act goes to the ghost house and becomes the next target of the demon. I am guessing that the house is the connecting point here. She has another one of those floating in the air demon rape scenes at the end of which she is thrown out a window from her fourth floor loft window. This ends the second act in such a strange way.
The third act is Vera waking up in the hospital eight months later. The horror of knowing she is carrying a demon baby and is too late term to have an abortion she is determined to give it up for adoption. A C-Section and she is free of the thing. It can't end there though and again we shift to six years later. Vera has looked up the adopted parents of the little girl she gave birth to. Her intent is pretty obvious and the climax centers around Vera's decision about the little girl. All of this later stuff is obviously, ..full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. There can not be a recommendation for this film. I am sure some younger teenagers might just like it but for adults this is lightweight horror not compelling enough to satisfy.
Odds and Ends
- The couple times they flashed on the demon were done well enough. Once hiding in a wardrobe and then again in flashback.
- After seeing The Conjuring and now this film is the stand alone wardrobe a thing that will come back into fashion? It worked as a nice anchor for knowing which house the character was in, since the house sets were so bland. (except Vera's awesome loft.)
- The slightly "Rosemary's Baby" birth and climax scene are what they are but are they original?
- A couple times there was background noise, radio or TV in both cases the commentary was about how bad the world is Raise in Poverty, the collapse of the social safety net. The TV images about the Japanese Tsunami or the earlier one? I find it interesting this is what was there. Possibly implying that the second coming was was on the verge of coming. Christian mythology says that an antichrist will rise before then. This could be that story like in the movie The Omen or The Seventh Sign? The opening and closing Bible verses (were they real one?) gives credence to this idea.
- When Vera woke up the police completely overlooked asking how she got thrown out a window 5 feet over her head. Later this was explained away with a reference about medication and people not believing her.
- Ashley Richard is a fine comedic actor from the teen show "Awkward" it's nice to see her try another genre. Naya Rivera is a regular on the television show "Glee". Catalina Sandino Moreno who get more lovely as older is having a fine career since her break in film role in Maria Full of Grace (2004)
- How many times have we seen a character using an insane asylum as a hiding place from some evil. So nice the trope worked in this case.