Review: All the Devil's Aliens / Cert: TBC / Director: Daniel Falicki / Screenplay: Daniel Falicki, Ryan Lieske, Lisa Mueller / Starring: David Gries, Lisa Mueller, Joseph Scott Anthony / Release Date: TBC
All the Devil's Aliens is the third feature from independent director Daniel Falicki and is distributed by Chemical Burn, a company specialising in low-budget genre and exploitation pictures.
Medical student Mike is offered a job as one of a team of carers for a cantankerous recluse living in isolation in a country home about whom bizarre rumours abound. However, upon arriving he is greeted by a nurse fleeing the house in hysterics, then put-upon but cheerful chief carer Robin relaying some odd rules he must follow, and numerous bouts of coughing, spluttering and muffled obscenities coming from his charge Pinborough via an audio monitor. But when he begins seeing strange figures skulking in the shadows and hears tales of unexplained disappearances, it becomes apparent there are other forces at work.
All the Devil's Aliens (also known as All the Devils Are Here or Devils in the Darkness, depending where on the Internet you’re looking) is a curious piece of filmmaking. The harsh lighting and grainy film stock give it the feel of another example of the current horror trend for faux grindhouse, but its lack of ostentation or referential self-awareness serves to separate it from such efforts. Also, not many exploitation flicks boast an opening quotation from The Merchant of Venice to prime its audience with a clue regarding its central premise. Were it not for the foreboding atmosphere and mysterious figures flitting past the camera, you could almost mistake it for a melodrama.
The film was quite clearly shot on a minuscule budget, but was done so in a way that skilfully disguises its limited resources. The simple plot allows almost the entire story to take place in a single setting, a creaky old building supplying all the darkened crevices necessary to hide its mysterious occupants. The human mind is always more fearful about what it can’t see rather than what it can, a reaction Falicki uses to full effect. The natural darkness of the house allows the silhouetted humanoids to remain hidden even when in shot, then the sudden jolt of revealing movement that makes you question what you’re even seeing serves to freak you out with far more precision than any histrionic close up of a snarling monstrosity ever could.
Character development is often the first casualty of horror filmmaking, but the conversations between Mike and Robin during the lulls of Pinborough’s demands and verbal assaults effectively paint them as real people with personalities and dreams, and when Pinborough himself is revealed in all his white-eyed, pale-skinned and utterly insane glory, he completely steals the spotlight.
Given how effective his filmmaking style is in establishing an atmosphere of quiet dread, it's a shame that Falicki felt it necessary to include overstated music to bluntly signpost how the audience is supposed to feel at any given moment. You can practically hear Brick Tamland declaring “I AM BEING OMINOUS!” as the orchestral crescendos gradually overwhelm all other sound.
While by no means a classic in any sense of the word, All the Devil's Aliens still marks itself as being made with more thought and enthusiasm than many studio-backed mainstream films with vastly bigger budgets. A fusion of horror, drama and conspiracy theory, its novel approach to what could have easily been a clichéd story makes it worth seeking out.