Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
At the Devil’s Door: Foreclosing on Souls
today are dangerously ignorant of the blues. Nobody worth their Robert Johnson
box-set would play along if a creepy Aryan cultist told them to walk down to
the crossroads and say your name so the boss can find you later. She will do it
for five bills, but she will not live to regret it in Nicholas McCarthy’s At the Devil’s Door (trailer here), which opens
late-night tonight in New York at the IFC Center.
few years and a deep recession later, people would stand in line to sell their
souls for pocket change. Nevertheless, Leigh, a go-getting real estate agent,
is convinced she can sell her motivated clients’ house quickly, despite the
state of the market. Teetering on the brink of foreclosure, they have also been
dealing with their daughter Charlene’s behavioral issues. As Leigh pokes around
the nearly empty domicile, she finds evidence of a fire, a twitchy young teen
answering Charlene’s description, and wickedly bad vibes in every cupboard and
closet, but she remains undeterred.
Leigh’s hard-charging Tony Robbins self-help trips are a major reason why her
depressive hipster artist sister artist Vera keeps her at arm’s length.
However, when Leigh misses the opening of her latest show, she cannot help
worrying. Inevitably, she will be drawn into the supernatural business as well.
are individual sequences in Door that
are chillingly effective, but you have to suspect McCarthy’s screenplay was
substantially rewritten at several junctures. There are several thirty degree
course corrections that are dramatic enough to interrupt the smooth narrative
flow, but not wild enough to be jaw-dropping game-changers. At times, it feels
like a horror movie built around alternating elements of haunted house and
demonic possession films, drawn randomly out of a hat.
McCarthy demonstrates a thorough command of mood and atmosphere, just as he did
in The Pact. When the film stays in
that house, it works just fine, but whenever it steps outside, it has a lot of
explaining to do.
sisters’ baton hand-off also looks like a mistake in retrospect. Catalina
Sandino Moreno has had an interesting career after her Oscar nomination for Maria Full of Grace, appearing in
Soderbergh’s Che on the left and then
For Greater Glory on the right,
followed by a dubious action turn in A Stranger in Paradise. Regardless, by genre standards, she is quite
compelling as Leigh, the responsible sister, always trying please everyone
else. Unfortunately, Naya Rivera (who was once on a short-lived show called something
like Merriment or maybe Glee) lacks her energy and presence as
the dull and dour Vera.
If you want to see horror movie, Door has enough elements, sufficiently
executed, to satisfy a fan’s craving. McCarthy again puts some nice twists on
familiar genre conventions, but he sort of loses the handle on his narrative. Maybe
the next one will be his breakout. Recommended for fans of The Pact and those who want a demonic fix, At the Devil’s Door opens late tonight (9/12) at the IFC Center and
is also available via IFC Midnight’s VOD platforms.
Labels: Horror Movies, Nicholas McCarthy