Thursday, May 7, 2015

At the Devil's Door (2014)

Title: At the Devil's Door
Year: 2014
Director: Nicholas McCarthy

It had flaws of its own (especially with its handling of the story's supernatural aspect), but Nicholas McCarthy's first feature length film, 2012's The Pact, was more than good enough to make the release of his next movie a highly anticipated event. However, whereas the earlier film masterfully built tension and told an engrossing story with genuine chills and thrills, At the Devil's Door represents a major step back, a quintessential sophomore disaster.

The movie begins with lovestruck Hannah (Ashley Rickards) doing her creepy boyfriend a favor by playing a parlor game with his even more creepy "uncle." Winning means passing "the test" and in return for $500 Hannah places her everlasting soul at the disposal of the Devil via the classic crossroads transaction made famous by the Robert Johnson tale. Now, most of us would ask for more money, but it seems reasonable that Hannah wouldn't believe in such superstition and see the whole thing as a gag, albeit an unsettling one. Unbeknownst to Hannah, passing the test also means that she's the chosen one for delivering the Devil's spawn but this fiendish plan is derailed as she commits suicide before that treasured moment can occur.

So exit corporeal Hannah and enter spirit Hannah and sisters Leigh (Catalina Sandino Mareno) and Vera (Naya Rivera). Leigh is the realtor charged with selling the house where Hannah and her family lived and Vera is an up and coming hipster artist. The sisters are devoted to each other but because every movie requires some sort of major emotional conflict Leigh (who cannot bear children) constantly pressures resistant Vera to settle down and start a family. So the Devil needs another bride. Who will it be?

McCarthy seems to have lost (temporarily, one hopes) his narrative and scene creation skills in between The Pact and At the Devil's Door. At best, there are effective pieces of scenes in this movie. The story is a muddled mess, as if script pages from Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, Don't Look Now, whatever possession movie was popular at the moment, The Grudge, and the Devil knows what else were placed in a screenplay blender and sprayed across the screen with little thought spared toward filtering and arranging such influences into a cohesive whole. Much effort is directed toward creating story rules to follow only to have them broken willy nilly [ex. Hannah had to pass a test and consciously agree to a pact before the Devil could plant his seed within her but Vera is just raped without warning in her loft] and characters are killed or spared at random. Some scenes, like Hannah's bizarre babysitting night and her ghost playing hide & seek in the kitchen cabinets, have no discernible reason to exist beyond random time filling scare creation. The script needed several more rewrites.  Skip this one, but don't quit on writer-director McCarthy altogether. Watch The Pact instead.

Rating: 3/10

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