Written and directed by Sean Hogan
In spite, or perhaps because of, its limitations, The Devil’s Business, the micro-budget occult hitman tale from director Sean Hogan (Lie Still, Little Deaths), manages to engage throughout due in large part to a tight script, a confident lead performance, and a touch of comic book creep. Hogan continues to explore all corners of the genre, crafting his most sure-handed work to date.
Pinner (Billy Clarke), a seasoned wet work pro with a steely demeanor, demands attention, and Clarke plays him beautifully here. His performance is the main reason the project works, and the script shapes his character into a truly memorable hitman with a heavy helping of old school class. His partner, Scully (Jack Gordon), on the other end is an amateur in the wrong game – a brute instrument that scares too easily and asks too many questions, ruled by fear and wholly inept.
Before both men finish casing the entire house as they wait for their mark to return from a lonesome evening at the opera, Pinner begins telling war stories, regaling a tale that introduces us to the supernatural side of The Devil’s Business. The story centers around a burlesque dancer who, after being murdered, haunts the club where she worked, showing up in her vanity mirror and dancing for the owner every night before vanishing into thin air. Pinner never quite finishes the story until the climactic ending of the film, tying the crime world into the same universe as the world of the occult, revealing his connection to those events as well.
A noise outside interrupts Pinner, and as they investigate, a gruesome discovery is made in a nearby shed. Panic begins to set in as a fairly routine hit moves into a realm that even the veteran has trouble processing.
As the film begins to dovetail with occult horror, some surreal scenes play out that would be right at home within the pages of EC Comics. The chemistry and snappy dialogue between Clarke and Gordon, coupled with a descent into pulpy weirdness, make The Devil’s Business stand out when it could’ve easily been lost in the shuffle at this year’s Fantastic Fest. It’s smart, contained, and even a tad ghoulish at times. Hogan’s film races by, feeling like an energetic stage play, but genre has always been more at home and more welcomed on the big screen. A small marvel due to its shoestring budget, The Devil’s Business manages to hold your attention throughout – a solid and satisfying rental on a rainy Saturday night.
3 out of 5