‘Where the Devil Roams’ Skillfully Sews Pathos Into the Carnage [Fantasia 2023 Review]

For the uninitiated, The Adams Family is a creative collective and a very real blood-tied clan who have been consistently producing some of the most exciting genre works of recent memory. Hellbender, their previous Fantasia Film Festival World Premiere, was a chaotic and contained vision of witchy mayhem that is as unmissable as it is perplexing. John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser return with Where the Devil Roams, their most expansive cornucopia of carnage and poetry to date.

In the film, Maggie, Seven, and Eve (Zelda Adams, John Adams, and Toby Poser, respectively) are a family of murderous traveling stage performers struggling to survive in the fringes of a rusting and frayed Depression-era America. When daughter Maggie is secretly taught a grotesque act of dark magic by a shadowy carnival performer named Mr. Tibbs, she steals his rotten power with putrid repercussions. As Maggie and her family travel across a snowswept and sweatstained rural America, they leave a trail of mutilated bodies in their wake until their violence is able to catch up with them slowly.

The Adams Family directs Where the Devil Roams with otherwordly confidence, giving this anachronistic period piece a singular feel that is much better seen than believed. It feels like it exists in a world without color, save for the blood that pools around the feet of our bloodthirsty anti-heroes. At times the film feels almost like a 90s-era music video from Nirvana, Hole, or Rasputina, and I say this with the highest regard. It feels messy, soiled, and deeply alternative … but with a uniquely tasty quality that only the grunge and post-grunge eras had to offer. I’d hate to debase this artistry as simply steampunk because what it’s offering is so much more nuanced and beautiful than that. It’s a dark-sided anachronism, a slice of vintage Americana that’s both blood-stained and hand-made.

And while the visuals and skillful direction are the gory backbone of this Fantasia standout (it won Best Cinematography at the fest), its performances are also responsible, in part, for how successful and beautifully Where the Devil Roams turned out. Toby Poser is a particular stand out as Eve, an ex-nurse who is so strong and viciously protective that she feels supernatural. You can feel her palpable love for Seven, and this fierce romance is able to keep the audience rooting for a murderous woman, no matter how many bodies pile up on the campfire. Zelda Adams is also impossible to look away from, silently commanding the screen with so much gravitas and mystery that it can burn your eyes.

While the latest horror film from The Adams Family is inarguably grotesque and even scary at moments, it’s a horror film that really succeeds because of the pathos that’s baked so precisely into its foundation. The emotional weight of the core family is felt from start to finish. We don’t leave this experience with the sickly memory of murder, but instead, we walk away with the desperate scent of love. The gore, murder, and carnage are all secondary to the loss of blood that they share.

Brutal and beautiful, Where the Devil Roams is a challenging yet appetizing plate of music video-quality visuals and hefty emotional charges. It feels like ghostly couture; a hand-made, blood-bloodstained jacket of carnage sewn tightly together with pathos and believable relationships. It’s an exquisite cinematic experience that deserves your full attention.

  • Where the Devil Roams


John Adams, Zelda Adams, and Toby Poser return with ‘Where the Devil Roams,’ their most expansive cornucopia of carnage and poetry yet.



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