Monday, February 27, 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Devil's Rock (2011)


Seriously. Why can't more horror films be like this?

I must admit...The Devil's Rock  is one of those films that I kept putting off watching. It was just released here in the States on Valentine's Day...and I had a copy of the DVD just sitting around collecting dust for weeks prior to its release date. I kept hearing amazing things about it but, I've almost given up on the usual direct-to-DVD genre fare. I kept going back and forth on this particular title because, while the DVD cover enticed me with its half nekkid demon-fanged girl dressed up in Nazi attire and breast-painted blood, the premise was something fantastical that could go one of two ways. Either it was going to be a middling attempt at an ambitious story, or it was going to suck hard and void me of an hour and a half.

The Devil's Rock did neither. In fact...it was a horrorphile's wet nightmare of a film. Albeit with a few minor technical flaws mixed in.

The premise is an intriguing one that might've been a bit much to handle if a less talented director had been at the helm. Two New Zealand commandos are sent via paddle boat to the Channel Islands to disable German gun emplacements in which to distract the Nazi forces away from Normandy. The year is 1944...on the eve of D-Day. Instead of completing their mission, the two Kiwi soldiers discover the furor's  plot to unleash demonic forces in which to harness pure evil as a weapon. Kinda far-fetched...right? Well...it all works!


There are many elements that pull this horror film together in a very pleasant way. Credit first-time feature director Paul Campion, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay. He does a fine job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere within the Nazi fortress combining elements of demonic fantasy and wartime tension. The entire film feels like something much more than the sum of its parts. It almost feels like the first film in a trilogy...or something. Rob Marsh also does a great job with the cinematography but, it's all Campion's show. And he's proven that he's got the chops for much greater things. I seriously cannot wait for this guy's next film!

Credit the amazing cast in this minuscule ensemble, as well. Although he isn't utilized for most of the film, Karlos Drinkwater, who plays Sergeant Joe Tane, creates a really likable "every man" character. Craig Hall plays the integral Captain Ben Grogan and you can really get behind this character. Hall allows you to feel his fragility as well as cheer for his badassery whenever the time arises. And you can't have a great hero without his equally great foil. He's present in the form of Col Klaus Meyer, played by a passionate Mathew Sunderland...who's amassed himself a pretty decent resume. And his character range is impeccable.

Gina Varela plays the seductive demoness as well as Grogan's love interest, Helena. Varela is the make-or-break of the entire film. Had she played the demon character ham-fisted and campy...the whole Devil's Rock  train would've been derailed early on. However, she plays seductive, malevolent and pristine like a fine musician tuning her instrument. Plus...it doesn't hurt that she's an absolute hottie. I personally feel that Varela has found her calling by playing a scorching hot demoness. I seriously felt like I could tame this demon. Is it weird that I have a crush on a freakin' demon now?


There's not much in the way of flaws in The Devil's Rock. The film does suffer a little technically. But, then...it is a low-budget affair. Some of the CGI is a little dodgy and perhaps you could argue that there was a lack of grue for a film about conjuring gore-eating demons. However, I felt that the lack of gore let you take in the wonderful performances without distraction. Still...it would've been nice to see more blood.

The DVD is chockfull of extras. I really enjoyed listening to Paul Campion's commentary as he really had quite a bit to say about the production of the film. I find it interesting listening to the creative direction involved in putting together a horror film like this and welcome any commentary full of descriptive insight.

Also included is a huge featurette chronicling the entire process of how the film was made. There's also a little featurette on the FX, as well as several outtakes, extended and deleted scenes, a bunch of promotional material and an 3 hour tutorial on building your own Arc of the Covenant. Just kidding about the Arc of the Covenant tutorial. But, it might as well been in there. There's just so much on this DVD that I was so stoked on getting lost in the world that the filmmakers created. If only all DVD's were like this.

That pretty much leads me right back to my first statement. I seriously wish all horror films were made like The Devil's Rock. An emphasis on substance first and foremost. It is a first-rate example of low-budget horror filmmaking and I hope that the direct-to-DVD release of the film doesn't distract you from watching this film like it did with me. Because I can be a bone-head...sometimes. The Devil's Rock  is a unique treat for any horror film connoisseur.



Thanks for reading,

bryan.

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