Review: Devil’s Bridge (18) / Directed by: Chris Crow / Written by: Chris Crow / Starring: Joseph Millson, Joshua Richards, Gary Mavers, Michael Jibson / Release Date: Out Now
When three Essex lads travel to the wilds of Wales they inadvertently cross swords with the big, bullish William Parry (Richards) who really doesn’t much like pesky English blokes travelling to his home turf and throwing their weight about. Unfortunately for Sean (Millson, The Sarah Jane Adventures) and his mates Parry is a psychopath who just isn’t going to put up with it any more… Hell yes, we’re in achingly-familiar territory here; films about strangers in an unfamiliar environment being stalked and slaughtered by irate locals seem to be as old as cinema itself. The DVD sleeve for Devil’s Bridge describes Chris Crow’s movie as “a British Deliverance” and whilst it’s not as intense an experience as John Boorman’s classic , it defies its miniscule budget and uses its small cast and some bleak and hostile locations to create a gripping, visceral variation on a well-worn theme.
Devil’s Bridge isn’t a horror film by any traditional or contemporary standard. Parry isn’t a mutant, he isn’t a monster or an alien; he’s just a troubled, violent man who lives a lonely existence but who’s fiercely patriotic and increasingly-infuriated by the arrogance and superiority of outsiders who ride roughshod over his home country’s people and their traditions and values. Similarly Sean and his pals Danny (Mavers) and Adam (Jibson) aren’t your usual naïve horny teens - they’re making a weekend of it in the middle of nowhere in Wales (always an enticing proposition, trust me) so that Sean, essentially a decent family man struggling to keep his family together in a difficult financial climate, can carry out a dodgy deal which will keep him afloat a bit longer. Immediately the film has a grittier edge to it than any of the more routine slaying by-numbers teen horrors which Hollywood churns out. This is tougher stuff, more believable and compelling precisely because its three leads are just ordinary Joes, men-in-the-street, and their killing machine adversary is someone they pissed off entirely by accident and at entirely the wrong time.
Like most films of this type there’s a sense of creeping dread and expectation as soon as Sean and his mates cross the Severn Bridge and find themselves lost in deepest, darkest Welsh countryside. An encounter with a local who warns them not to go to a local pub, the Rose and Crown, plays out a bit too much in the manner of “they don’t like strangers around ‘ere” but the stakes are raised when the bearded, rifle-bearing William Parry appears in the road in front of them like an immovable force of nature. They hurl abuse at him in an effort to get him out of their way - and their fates are pretty much sealed. Inevitably and predictably, they find themselves at the Rose and Crown anyway and, sure enough, Parry stomps in and causes a scene. On their way back to the cottage accommodation Parry appears in his beaten-up 4x4, forces them off the road and so begins the cat-and-mouse game which dominates the second half of the film…
Joshua Richards is electrifying as the powerful, determined and very probably quite deranged killer. He’s a huge, relentless physical presence and once he’s cornered his prey he toys with them and tortures them mercilessly - explaining exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing - before finally dispatching them. Devil’s Bridge isn’t especially gory - that’s not the point. It’s about raw savagery and the instinct for survival. One of the strongest scenes in the movie sees Parry literally pummeling one of his victims to a pulp, raining down blow after blow until he’s spattered with blood. We don’t see the damage he’s caused but we can imagine it and sometimes that’s enough. Parry’s final confrontation with the Last Man Standing is tough stuff too, two men in wild and windswept countryside, miles from civilisation, brutalising one another.
Crow’s script is a bit obvious in places - you’ll see the ‘twist’ ending coming from somewhere over the Severn Bridge - but his direction is stark and stylish, the picture often bleached of colour and the action scenes pumping and pacey. Devil’s Bridge (the name’s from a Welsh beauty spot) may not bowl you over with its originality but it at least manages to bring a few new ideas to a table genre cinema has visited a little too often in recent years. Crow tells his tale with energy, economy and a very specific creative vision. Worth a punt.
Special Features: Trailer; behind-the scenes material.