DVD REVIEW: AWAKEN THE DEVIL / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: DANIEL E. FALICKI / SCREENPLAY: RYAN LIESKE, MATT SIMPSON SIEGEL / STARRING: JASON ROTH, MATT SIMPSON SIEGEL / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Horror movies have always made a virtue of attempting to balance low budgets with lofty ambitions, but only occasionally do they really succeed. Awaken the Devil marries an interesting idea with a fairly novel technique but sadly never really takes flight.
Roth and Siegel play two homeless brothers who decide to spend the night in an abandoned building and end up as pawns of the Devil. And that’s the entire plot; if the Devil has a cunning plan there’s very little evidence of it. Even the comparatively clever twist, which resolves the film, fails to make sense of what little has gone before, and the pacing is so bewilderingly slow that it’s hard to feel any tension as the plot inches forwards. One of the brothers is mute and wheelchair-bound, leading to two revelatory moments that wouldn’t surprise even the most credulous of spectators. Given that the siblings are pretty much the only characters in the entire film, there is a curious air of immobility that the story does very little to counteract.
All of which would be fine if any of the very few incidents in Awaken the Devil appeared either to serve a purpose or to have consequences. But neither of the brothers seems that eager either to extricate themselves from what’s going on or to try and understand it, with the effect that any peril they find themselves in lacks bite. The attempts to engender a sense of dread earlier in the movie fail miserably, making very little sense and failing to connect with subsequent events. A much stronger script was needed if even the paltriest of plot threads were to be tied together.
What raises the film above the mire of indifference it would otherwise inspire is the process by which it was produced, superficially similar to the rotoscoping of A Scanner Darkly, albeit highly inexpensively and therefore without the animation effect. Ostensibly this ought to allow the producers to locate their film anywhere they please, but with the first third set against the backdrop of a city street (essentially photographic backgrounds populated by oddly disjointed silhouette people) and the rest of it within an almost pitch dark room, the technique is all but wasted. Awaken the Devil ends up looking more interesting than it might, but that’s about all that’s in its favour. The animated succubae that turn up towards its climax look as incongruous as something out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and diminish any tension the film might have been attempting to build.
Undoubtedly there’s an audience for Awaken the Devil out there somewhere, but in the absence of any content as lurid as its title, it’ll have a hard time finding one.
Special Features: None
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