Nicholas McCarthy's At the Devil's Door is a nifty film which compliments his slowly growing portfolio of domestic supernatural horrors. He's proved a dab-hand at making a lot with very little, focusing on intimate human experiences to pad out his nightmarish hauntings. After a few great horror shorts, McCarthy's The Pact was developed into his feature film debut, a solid example of supernatural horror with a great command of the familial environment. McCarthy's Easter segment of anthology film Holidays yet again returned to the monstrous horror of the childhood home.
At the Devil's Door, like The Pact, is an unassuming, downtrodden Indy flick with little light in its heart, but a solid dollop of terror mixed in with the family drama/thriller touches. McCarthy's story is bigger this time and the canvas stretches over many years, positioning characters mysteriously along a timeline and then easing out spooky revelations as the runtime ticks away. Whilst the story could prove stale for anyone particularly into supernatural horror films, the style is admittedly a huge part of At the Devil's Door's success. McCarthy has an enormous bank of classic iconography to exploit, and generously sprinkles superb images throughout the picture. Not just that but McCarthy's control of atmosphere is absolute and instant, from the start of the film, events are imbibed with mystery and confusion. He goes on to spin a fair yarn too.
Bridger Nielsen, cinematographer on Holidays and The Pact, returns to provide those recognisably cinematic interior spaces. Nielsen's work on Rodney Ascher's The Nightmare borrowed heavily from giallo and sci-fi for a lurid painting of a film, here Nielsen is more reserved, constructing dark moody stages in the style of Gregory Crewdson. It has a terrific effect on the film which seems to become moodier whenever the camera is left for too long in the haunted spaces of McCarthy's strange houses. The eventual demonic realisations are subtle but effective, graphic but not gory. Even one dodgy digital creature effect pulls off with a brutal jump scare. As the film unfurls, it reveals the exact nature of it interests. Like The Pact, McCarthy loves telling a horror story across generations, allowing his camera and story to seamlessly drift across the years and months to reveal the despicable outcomes of a patient evil's actions. It totally works.
McCarthy's latest offers a ride similarly subdued and atmospheric to The Pact with a few more daring moves. It’s a New-Age Rosemary's Baby. A retro-supernatural affair with a Postmodern flash-forward. If he's going to keep making these domestic affairs it could get thin soon, but there's nothing to say his chosen motif won't yield plenty of creative opportunity in other sub-genres, especially if they look as good as this and continue to cast strong female leads.
AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: NICHOLAS MCCARTHY / STARRING: CATALINA SANDINO MORENO, ASHLEY RICKARDS, NAYA RIVERA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 5/10