Author: John Mathews
After the indie success of "The Pact" Nicholas McCarthy makes with "Home" (the original title of "At the Devil's Door") the second trip to the horror genre. Here, the writer / director remains faithful to the concept of its predecessor, and attaches great value back into plenty of atmosphere and subtle horror. The film has already gathered itself quite a bit of buzz and its easy to see why.
The film opens up on a beautifully shot open dirt road in the outskirts of the desert. Here is when we meet the young Hannah (Ashley Rickards), who sold her soul to the devil for money. Hannah returns back home, but it is evident strange things are happening. She is progressively becoming possessed. The tension builds and McCarthy certainly knows how to get under peoples skin, with Hannahs ultimate change being a haunted and intense opening to the film.
Hannah mysteriously has disappeared and her parents want to put the house on the market to end their pain and suffering. So the hire broker Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) to sell the apartment. But evil is still present and it is looking for someone new, which is soon Leigh's sister, Vera (Naya Rivera from "Glee"). Leigh eventually becomes haunted from the evil presence in the house, to the point where it follows her and she cannot escape the horror. "At the Devil's Door" has the makings of another horror hit, because Nicholas McCarthy has created some spine-tingling moments that may cause film goers to lose sleep, with even experienced connoisseurs genre. One a technical level McCarthy really has nailed the use of filmmaking; lighting, camera work, sound and timing are so effectively coordinated so that every moment of shock sits with you. Even though often it is already clear what will happen, I have rarely been scared so many times in a row in exactly the same film. It is something that you have been waiting in vain in the horror genre in recent years.
Naya Rivera gives a fantastic performance, considering this is her first feature, let alone horror film. By the time the evil begins to invade her you feel compassion towards her character. This is mainly due to her fantastic acting and character development, all of the characters in this film are likeable. The film can almost be seen as a three part structure, the first being a possession movie, mirroring such classics as 'The Exorcist', 'The sentinel'. The second structure we have a haunted house film, making reference to 'The Amittyville Horror' and 'Legend of Hell House'. This segment focuses more on Vera's sister experiencing the horrors of the house. Finally we have the third act which plays into demon child films, such as 'The Bad Seed' and 'Rosemary's Baby'. This segment specifically effects Vera and what unfolds is truly horrifying. McCarthy is obviously a big fan of 70's horror (he mentioned it during an interview I conducted with him), and uses atmosphere in his films, rather than excessive gore and cheap scares. This indeed feels like a homage to older gothic films of that era, the tension built overtime.
The creepiness is thanks to the dark atmosphere which remains surprisingly high also the structure of the store is unconventional and works, ultimately without a common thread we first follow Hannah, then Leigh and Vera in the final, which are plagued by the same demon. The constant changing of the protagonists is to give us an opportunity to learn about them and keep the pace fresh and consistent. The constructed plot raises more questions than answers, but the audience does get hints at information and answers. Although I really like it when a movie does make room for interpretation, one can lose here by the lack of action and actress interest and attention. In short, you will be exposed to a series of shocking moments, without any connection, which comes after a period of steady consistency. If your a fan of classic horror, we highly recommend you check out at the devils door.
Sandman films present 'At The Devils Door' in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. As mentioned earlier this is the film that makes use of the frame, from the wide lens opening shots, video quality is an essential. The colours are very vibrant, despite this being quite a dark film, the hue lighting of blues and oranges come across rich and consistent. The black levels remain very strong, this is important for the darker scenes where the image does not go too dark and creates a nice contrast balance. The film appears to have been shot digitally, thankfully the transfer is free from digital grain or noise, there are slight signs of artefacts compression, this could be due to the production of the film. Overall a very strong and solid video presentation.
The audio here has been presented in a 5.1 sound mix and has been encoded in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1. It really does show off, especially with tension scenes, the sound begins to rumble your system. Very effective and deep audio experience.
Sandman certainly don't skimp on the extras as we get a wide selection of engaging content to inform us about the production history.
Note: Check out our interview with the director here exclusively on The Director's Suite Cast.