On the eve of D Day two New Zealand commandos (why they have to be New Zealanders is never quite explained) Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater), are sent to destroy German gun emplacements on an island in the English Channel. However once on the island the soldiers discover much more than mere guns and boobytraps. The Nazis are hatching an occult plot to unleash demonic forces to win the war, and this godforsaken British outpost is where Hell will literally be loosed on earth.
I didn't, in all honesty, know how to feel about The Devil's Rock - good, bad or indifferent? If you can get through the first five minutes, which mainly concerns the two mercenaries (whose dialogue gratingly seems to consist of nothing but the 'f' word) arriving on the island and takes place virtually in the pitch black, then things begin to pick up - just.
Over the years there have been countless horror films concerning the Nazis - hardly surprising considering that the atrocities they committed provide prime fodder for horror - think Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975), Shockwaves (1977), Zombie Lake (1981), and Dead Snow (2009) to name but a few (as well as Sergio Garrone's notorious SS Experiment Love Camp (1976) - but we won't even go there!). One in particular however, bares an uncanny resemblance to The Devil's Rock. Analyse 1983's shocker The Keep (interesting if for nothing else than the fact that it was one of the first films from the highly respected Michael Mann) - Nazi soldiers harbouring an evil force within a fortress, which they intend to use as a weapon in the war - and the premise is almost a blue print for this devilishly odd film.
What did I make of The Devil's Rock? Not much. There is a lot of occult paraphernalia - circles, candles, pentagrams, flesh, blood (plenty of that). In fact everything you've seen before from The Devil Rides Out to Hellraiser, which its predecessors pulled off with more panache. The real trouble though is that this film doesn't seem to know what it is. Wartime thriller, as in the arrival of two soldiers on a windswept island out to sabotage the Germans' attack plans. Love story, as Grogan battles with the loss of his wife and the demon's reincarnation of her to torment him. Or subtle horror - inexplicable groans and erie screams echoing down dark subterranean corridors, apparently 'empty' rooms with gratuitously dismembered corpses and glistening, slimy piles of gore and intestines... Ok, let's forget the subtle. Though the horror takes its time in coming, when it does it does thick and fast, with no pretence whatsoever at style or atmosphere. Severed fingers, decapitation, a rather gruesomely detailed and unnecessarily prolonged removal of a bullet from one guy's stomach. It's as if the producers had decided oh, this is a horror movie. We haven't shown any yet. Let's throw in as much (admittedly pretty realistic) gore as possible.
Before the demon reveals itself in all its abominable glory, the female form it takes on in order to seduce the understandably bewildered Grogan (and believe me he won't be the only confused one after you've sat through the film), resembles Jessie Wallace from Eastenders, which would probably be horror enough for most people. When eventually the demon does emerge from the shadows, it looks like a female version of Tim Curry's Darkness from Legend, which isn't a good look in anyone's book - even for Hell spawn.
There are some smart touches, like when the death of one character inadvertently provides a bridge for the demon to enter the circle, which is supposedly protecting the hero from it. However these are few and far between and not enough to save this hokum ridden schlock fest from a wearisome death and an ending which, though it takes the viewer by surprise by just, happening, doesn't come soon enough. The film's accompanying poster says to "Prepare for Hell in 2011". I think that should include the warning that 'Hell' is having to sit through it.
This film could have been fun, but instead ends up like a Nazi experiment - fatuous and grisly. Fortunately many of the Nazis' planned atrocities never got past the drawing board. Unfortunately The Devil's Rock did.
The Devil's Rock - Out on DVD - 11th July