At the Devil’s Door: Atmospheric but Unfocused Horror
Ashley RickardsCatalina Sandino Moreno...
HorrorMystery & Suspense
In 1 Cinema
Previously titled Home, Nicholas McCarthy’s At the Devil’s Door is one of those films by no means offends but at the same time does very little to excite. The film is well-crafted and it boasts a genuinely chilling atmosphere, but it just doesn’t come together as a piece of storytelling.
Starting off with a relatively intense 1987-set prologue, At the Devil’s Door begins telling its story with troubled teenage runaway, Hanna (Rickards) who ends up unwittingly selling her soul to the devil after playing a game with creepy man in a trailer. Deemed as ‘special’, Hanna is told that she will be soon contacted, before she mysteriously disappears after being attacked in her own bedroom.
Fast-forward to the present and the story introduces us to Leigh (Moreno); an ambitious and beautiful real-estate agent who is busy trying to sell a rather difficult LA home belonging to a financially-struggling couple. While scouting the property, Leigh spots a teen girl – dressed in a red raincoat – lurking around the house and tries to make contact. Strangely, however, she fades into the background of the film, with her younger sister, Vera (Rivera), then stepping in to take the lead – a peculiar plot shift to say the least.
As far as the mood and the general atmosphere goes, McCarthy knows what he’s doing; intense, dark and mystifying, the director manages to avoid the always-eager-to-jolt-you-out-of-your-skin jump scares and cheap fear tricks and successfully creates a genuinely dreary and daunting environment. This makes it all the more a shame that the plot – although refreshingly unusual and with several unexpected twists – is a little disjointed and incohesive.
The three leads are effective in their respective roles, with special nods to Oscar-nominated Colombian actress, Moreno – make sure you don’t miss her mesmerising performance as a teenage drug mule in Maria Full of Grace. However, their inner-complexities, character and overall charm is never really given enough time to grow and, as a result, the audience won’t really find much to connect to.
On the whole, At the Devil’s Door is not an entirely hopeless horror entry; it’s got the mood and it’s got the story, however, it doesn’t have the focus to bring it all together into one riveting and gripping movie-going experience.