Saturday 6 June 2020

Shudder Saturday: Devil's Mile (2014)

The lonely American highway. It can be fertile ground for movies, the setting for some fine thrillers, some fine horror movies, and now Devil's Mile.

The description of the movie on IMDb starts off by saying this: "A relentlessly-paced hybrid of gritty crime thriller and Lovecraftian supernatural horror..." So at least we know what director Joseph O'Brien, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Opausky, was aiming for. To be fair, there are moments where he hits the target. It's just a shame that they are few and far between.

Three people are driving on a road at night. They are Toby (David Hayter), Cally (Maria del Mar), and Jacinta (Casey Hudecki). You get an idea that these are not good people, and that becomes clearer when they make a stop, taking time to also deal with two women they have stored in the trunk of the car. Things don't feel right, and they're about to go a lot more wrong for everyone involved.

A small cast, I think there were only about ten or twelve characters, at most, and use of some compact locations (the car, space beside the car, one or two rooms shown occasionally) allow O'Brien to focus on the atmosphere and scares. Unfortunately, he doesn't do a good job with either, and then seems satisfied with himself for turning the third act into a mess of easy get-outs and unsatisfying twists that are supposed to make up for the nonsense that came beforehand.

Del Mar and Hudecki carry most of the scenes, and both do as well as they can, considering the material that they're working with. Hayter is used sparingly, and Frank Moore appears in a few scenes, playing a character named Mr. Arkadi, to spout nonsense and suffer more at the hands of the writers than anyone else onscreen.

If you're thinking about checking this one out then I would advise against it. I can point you to at least a dozen similar movies that would prove to be more entertaining, whether it's the classic noir titles like The Hitch-Hiker, the intense brilliance of The Hitcher, the surreal horror of Dead End, or the neo-noir "Twilight Zone-esque" Dark Country. All of those are better than Devil's Mile, which ultimately doesn't really settle on what it wants to be. You get the crime story unfolding throughout, you get random characters bursting into the narrative to show you that you can't trust the chronology, or even then way events are being perceived, and you also get occasional encounters with demonic entities. If mixed together more effectively, this could have been a decent little distraction. As it is, it just feels like a waste of time. Maybe O'Brien will do better next time, this was only his first feature, but I can't say I'll be rushing to check out his work.


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