ALONG CAME THE DEVIL (2018)

Along Came the Devil.jpg

Studio:       Gravitas Ventures
Director:    Jason DeVan
Writer:       Jason DeVan, Dylan Matlock, Heather DeVan
Producer:  Jason DeVan, Dylan Matlock, Heather DeVan
Stars:     Jessica Barth, Matt Dallas, Sydney Sweeney, Madison Lintz, Heather DeVan, Bruce Davison

Review Score:

50.jpg

Summary:

Forced to confront her family¡¯s troubled past, a young woman inadvertently opens herself up to demonic possession.


Synopsis:     

Review:

It¡¯s difficult to pinpoint the precise year when demonic possession/exorcism thrillers became so commonplace as to be worth barely a dime a dozen.  Whenever it was, the glut has only grown since, reducing the subgenre¡¯s current value to maybe a nickel per fifty.  That¡¯s the landscape putting ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± behind the eight-ball before even pressing Play, as it throws its ho-hum hat into a jam-packed ring without a spare inch for accommodating it.

¡°Along Came the Devil¡± purports to be ¡°based on true events,¡± a tactical tagline also overused to the point where it no longer entices prospective viewers.  As gleaned from an interview with the filmmakers, those ¡°true events¡± seem limited to the broad strokes of a supposed possession that reportedly haunted a Brazilian family.  A cynic might otherwise snipe that the ¡°true events¡± involved the writers watching ¡°The Exorcist¡± in order to crib plot points for their similar screenplay.

Lame humor aside, director Jason DeVan and his key collaborator/wife Heather DeVan put in a laudable commitment toward polishing their homegrown effort into a decent-looking indie.  It¡¯s the slow-paced familiarity that undoes their stab at intrigue.  Then again, issues with ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± have as much to do with what we¡¯ve seen before as they do with what the movie perplexingly never shows us at all.

Titled ¡°Tell Me Your Name¡± once upon a time, ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± introduces main character Ashley by way of far too much text.  White-lettered narration on a black background tells us through four lengthy sentences that since the mysterious death of their mother Sarah, Ashley¡¯s older sister Jordan has tried to protect the young girl from their abusive father as well as dark memories of mom.  With adult Jordan now off at Penn State, Aunt Tanya takes in Ashley and moves back to the sisters¡¯ hometown hoping for some stability.  Unfortunately for their troubled family, the evil entity that plagued Sarah now has its sights set on Ashley.

Got all that?  It doesn¡¯t matter if you do, because much of this exposition gets thrown into an irrelevant wind.

¡°Along Came the Devil¡± could play ¡®Show¡¯ instead of ¡®Tell.¡¯  But whether lack of time, money, or a fully-fleshed script bears the most blame, the movie hits a number of nonsensical holes, stemming either from established background it doesn¡¯t need or scenes that flat out don¡¯t exist.

Ashley¡¯s abusive father with an odd British accent?  Completely banished following the prologue.  Older sister Jordan?  Seen once in that same flashback and then never again until contacted by phone during the conclusion.  Expected story structure wouldn¡¯t include inconsequential characters, yet ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± has several, opting to clog its gears with unnecessary narrative complications when an easy peasy rewrite could have streamlined the setup to where Ashley currently lives with Jordan or Aunt Tanya has been there since the beginning.

I can only guess that ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± had grander ideas in mind that it couldn¡¯t/didn¡¯t get around to capturing on camera for one reason or another.  Other clues lending credence to this claim include a mystery incident at school discussed via dialogue without actually being seen, a doctor briefly supplanting the primary physician to pointlessly prescribe a few pills, and an abrupt cut to end credits revealing ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± doesn¡¯t even have an authentic ending.

The quick flick isn¡¯t exactly preachy, although its religious overtones are more overt than most movies in this vein.  Certain scenes include plenty of praying, the usual chatter between two priests confronting a crisis of faith, a pastor pushy about joining youth ministries, even a Christian pop performance during a Sunday mass montage.

¡°Along Came the Devil¡± is essentially a well-intentioned movie without much incentive to give it a go.  Scares largely consist of soundtrack stings accompanying a shadow passing in the background or foreground.  The cast at least includes familiar faces such as Sydney Sweeney of ¡°The Handmaid¡¯s Tale,¡± Jessica Barth from ¡°Ted,¡± ¡°Kyle XY¡¯s¡± Matt Dallas, and reliable workhorse Bruce Davison.  In keeping with the film¡¯s imbalanced attention to its own details however, screentime for supporting players fluctuates between ¡°who is this person again?¡± and ¡°why is s/he featured at all?¡±

Giving credit where credit is due, ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± may be a friends and family production, but it is lit well, consistently in focus and, missing material notwithstanding, edited in a proficient manner.  It may sound marginal, but the camera spends a fair deal of time on a dolly too, highlighting a cinematic eye for movement instead of simply pointing and shooting to shove each scene in the can.

Entertainment-wise, ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± doesn¡¯t earn equal praise.  No matter how technically competent compared to its peers, the movie is repetitively uneventful enough to lull an insomniac into immediate slumber.  Neither awful nor exceptional, ¡°Along Came the Devil¡± is merely a spectacularly average movie that¡¯ll sizzle from your memory faster than water spilled on a hot summer sidewalk.

Review Score:  50