When I saw that this movie existed, I absolutely had to know what it was going to be like. I love The Twilight Zone and this seemed like it was going to be a feature length movie version of the episode “The Howling Man”, where a traveler comes across a monastery where they say they have the Devil locked up. The need to see how this was going to play out was less because of my enjoyment of that particular episode (though it is good) and more because “The Howling Man” was a half hour long and I had no idea what you could possibly do to stretch another hour out of that premise.
The set-up for this is that Matt and his wife Karen are going to see Matt’s brother Steve as a surprise for Christmas. The true Christmas surprise, though, comes when he tells them that he has the Devil locked up in his basement. The rest of the film is the two of them trying to figure out what they should do. Also, we get some background information on what exactly led Steve to try to capture the Devil and why it is that they don’t just immediately call the cops and get the hell (haHA) out of there.
As I had originally feared, there wasn’t really enough of a plot to go off of here to make it worth being a full length movie. Most of the run time is padded with a lot of shots of people sitting around while “creepy” music is playing or conversations that are meant to give background info but end up just being vague and coyly dancing around the actual subject. They ask Steve early on how he actually managed to catch the Devil in the first place and he just brushes it off saying “It’s not important” but with this much time to fill and this little of a plot, it would at least be something interesting. We see Steve’s attic that has the classic “red strings connecting things all over a wall” and then we get no explanation of what it is he’s tracking or how anything connects. It’s just used as visual shorthand for “this person is unhinged.”
Perhaps the biggest sin this movie commits is that it makes it clear that this is the actual Devil almost immediately. When the man behind the door speaks it is distorted and seems to have more than one voice. We get weird paranormal stuff happening throughout the house and no real reason to think that maybe it’s actually an innocent person. There’s almost no tension in a story that should be about an unreliable narrator’s distorted truth. A few years ago I reviewed They Look Like People, a movie where someone is convinced there are alien imposters replacing people and it’s uncertain if he is delusional or not. That movie does everything correct where this movie doesn’t. Instead of having us constantly second guessing what we might have previously thought, it just keeps reinforcing the truth it already told us.
I think this movie is best represented by one of the early moments in the film. Matt pulls up to Steve’s house, gets out, and knocks on the door. This process is drawn out and has the standard modern monotone creepy music in the background. At this point in the film, we don’t know who Matt is, what this house is, why they are here, or anything else and yet the movie wants to make this seem dramatic even though we have nothing invested so far.
Rating: 2 out of 5