Devil's Gate Review - Some Doors Shouldn't Be Opened - Dread Central
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Devil’s Gate Review – Some Doors Shouldn’t Be Opened

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Starring Milo Ventimiglia, Bridget Regan, Amanda Schull, Shawn Ashmore, Jonathan Frakes, Javier Botet, Adam Hurtig

Directed by Clay Staub


Clay Staub’s Devil’s Gate is, coincidentally, in no way a satanic sinner. Think instead a countrified skew on Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, completely extraterrestrial in its desire to thrill. Small pockets exist where creature design roars loudly and anxiety ramps, but overall project cohesion is an issue here. Mythologies are pulled from a possessed farmer’s almanac, yet Staub’s explanation of story is about as engaging as a tumbleweed parade. Dilapidated set designs make for creaky haunts staged by towering alien creatures – then the third act hits. Convoluted, a bit obvious and way less engaging than visuals dictate. It’s hard to tell where *exactly* things go wrong…they just do.

Milo Ventimiglia stars as Jackson Pritchard, a reclusive husband who’s barricaded himself inside his family’s generations-old farmhouse. Boarded up windows, camouflaged bear traps, barbed wire decorations – the whole shebang. FBI Special Agent Daria Francis (Amanda Schull) thinks this is because he’s kidnapped his missing wife and child, so Deputy “Colt” Salter (Shawn Ashmore) escorts her to the rustic fortress. Turns out there *is* something caged up in the basement, just not human. Jackson swears he can trade his monster for those who’ve vanished, much to the shock of both law enforcers. Then the lightning storm strikes – and sensibility turns to sci-fi chaos.

What’s appreciated about Devil’s Gate is that this North Dakota takeover is never reliant on paranoia. A non-human race is exposed in plain sight. No blurred figures or *possible* beings relegated to the shadows. These are alien invaders with an agenda, fully realized from fanged teeth to bulbous heads to stretchy exo-goop wingspans. Spacemen are so often used as tools to manipulate tension without actual presentation – it’s nice to see Staub remain confident in his effects team.

That said, it’s hard pinning down just what in tarnation is going on in Devil’s Gate – which is strange, because exposition is stone-heavy. We know that extraterrestrials intend to colonize Earth but first need to figure out how to breathe our life-giving air. Jackson’s family have long been guinea pigs, studied and experimented as skin suits for alien souls (I think?). Something something Jackson’s wife giving birth to foreign babies and his living son maybe being one of them but also maybe not? My question marks are indicative of how the film introduces information, us grasping for straws as plotting chugs forward without permitting proper time for twists to sink in.

Performances are fitting but staggered, mostly because characters evolve at such a rapid rate. Colt is a forgiving childhood friend of Jackson’s until Staub’s mid-film “shocker” turns Colt against Jackson, gun-to-head style. Special Agent Daria enters a skeptic, but is eventually seen pleading with Maria Pritchard (Bridget Regan) not to doom humanity just because of her motherly instincts. Then there’s Jackson – a flannel trucker type who goes all biblical – fighting for his family even though it’s all aliens and light beams and eyes for eyes…yeah, who is this character? Everyone’s so very small-town and country bumpkin proficient, but it all circles back to how thin a story is established. Like, for example – why is the gigantic cosmic portal rune sitting in the back of a father-son photograph completely ignored for years?!

Devil’s Gate is most frustrating because on a physical, cinematic level, there are aspects worth praising – snarling intergalactic beasts (kudos, Javier Botet), a torn rib cage, some wavy field shots (definitely not that weak CGI lightning, though) – yet these images cannot defend against a short-changed story that repeatedly gets ahead of itself before rectifying the “now.” At 94 minutes, grander ideas are horrendously underdeveloped and subjected to blinding flashback distractions. Jackson’s rambling is fair given the junkyard castle he’s built, but a cross between religious prayer and otherworldly visitors confuses instead of tickles. It’s a curious buildup that crumbles under the weight of a head-scratching third act unless you’re a sucker for damning humanity – maybe then all this mumbo jumbo makes sense.

  • Devil's Gate
2.5

Summary

Devil’s Gate beams into its story with reckless abandon, but advances far quicker than audiences keep up with. At least there are some cool Javier Botet aliens, though?

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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

Directed by Kimble Rendall


If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic

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Starring Father Gabriele Amorth

Directed by William Friedkin


Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.

It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.

The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?

In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.

Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.

Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.

Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!

As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.

  • The Devil and Father Amorth
2.0

Summary

See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.

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