DVD REVIEW: WHERE THE DEVIL HIDES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CHRISTIAN E. CHRISTIANSEN / SCREENPLAY: KARL MUELLER / STARRING: RUFUS SEWELL, ALYCIA DEBNAM CAREY, ADELAIDE KANE, THOMAS MCDONELL, COLM MEANEY / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 26TH
There are some films that arrive with a noticeable hint of dejected failure about them. Others carry a barely recognisable scent of embarrassed resignation that slowly emanates from within your DVD player, as if the filmmakers know they have something deeply terrible on their hands but had to do something... so they released it. Where the Devil Hides, on the other hand, launches a wholly unpleasant sensory assault on any viewer unlucky enough to have unwittingly pressed play.
Released in U.S. cinemas very briefly under the title The Devil’s Hand some two years ago, Christian E. Christiansen’s film jumps awkwardly between various genres and borrows unsuccessfully from numerous cinematic sources. Initially focussing on the supernatural, the story begins in an isolated, and non-specific, religious community (we’ll get to that later) and the warning of a soon to be realised prophecy. Said prophecy declares the commencement of a countdown to biblical levels of destruction if 6 girls are born on the 6th day of the 6th month; the conclusion of which comes on the eve of their 18th birthdays. Then only one will remain and she will become the right hand of the devil himself, condemning the world to darkness. Elder Deacon (Meaney) truly believes in all this but is thwarted in his attempts at mass infanticide by the father of one of the girls, Jacob (Sewell). As the notable birthday approaches, one of the group, Jacob’s daughter Mary (Debnam Carey), begins to experience seizures and visions, and when two girls go missing under suspicious circumstances the community begins to believe the prophecy may actually be coming true.
Where the Devil Hides appears to be aiming for a supernaturally influenced thriller somewhere between Peter Weir’s Witness and formulaic-but-fun teen flick I Know What You Did Last Summer. After a few spooky goings-on in early scenes, however, the story moves into standard slasher movie territory with even the mysterious killer sporting a wardrobe reminiscent of the latter’s murderous antagonist. Sometime later the film embarks on a curious, sexually-awkward coming-of-age storyline before quickly realising it really wants to be a slasher film after all while returning to even more spookiness in the final act.
Simply put, this film is a disastrous mess. There is no sign of a comprehensive narrative, perhaps understandable given the trio of credited editors, and displays levels of confusion that implies no one voice had any control over the project. Among the many issues, and definitely the most disappointing, is the lack of any real commitment to the cause. Refusing to give a name to the religious group at the centre of the piece smacks of politically correct cowardice, and in sterilising any hint of horror to the point of blandness the film has failed in everything it has set out to do; not scary, not tense… just not interesting.
It would be prudent to state, though, that amid the wreckage of this cinematic catastrophe are two small, barely discernible positives. Colm Meaney is always watchable and voraciously chews the scenery as if the catering truck was late every day. He manages to be the singular creditable presence and carries just enough ambiguity as to be moderately menacing. The second is in the song that accompanies the end credits, although sheer relief may have played a factor in affecting judgement.
Special Features: None
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