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Devil's Rock, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Nazis and demons - pick your poison."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: You can make a pretty decent horror movie without a whole lot in the way of raw materials. More than practically any other genre, filmmakers have been able to do quite a bit with just a room, a handful of good actors, a half-decent concept, and a good gore team. At the very least, "The Devil's Rock" has an excellent gore team, and the rest isn't bad either.

It's the eve of D-Day, but before the Allied attack can begin in earnest, some German defenses must be neutralized. Thus, a pair of ANZACs who have been in Europe since the beginning of the war, Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) have paddled to one of the occupied Channel Islands, aiming to take out a German gun. When they get there, though, the gun is unmanned, and the base next to it is a charnel house. A survivor, Colonel Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland), tells them that the base was used for Nazi experiments with the occult. This one, clearly, has had mixed results - they've summoned a demon, but control is clearly an issue. It's locked down now, but when Grogan looks at it, he sees his wife Helena (Gina Varela).

It's a tough situation when both demons and Nazis are saying that they're the ones with your best interests at heart. Director Paul Campion and his co-writers have a great deal of fun with the classic "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" scenario, which is a good thing - a feature-length movie confined to a few rooms where you can count the important characters on one-hand needs suspense more than anything else, and Campion's smart about it, cranking the tension up high to start and then finding ways to move the needle on the pressure gauge as much as he can as the movie goes on. It's not a perfect script by a long shot - the situation constantly demands Grogan accept the word of someone with every motivation to lie, and he seems to choose correctly or incorrectly based on how far along the story is - but the set-up is good and Campion can milk it.

Having a decent cast to work with helps. They aren't playing particularly complicated characters, but they're by and large getting the job done. Craig Hall and Karlos Drinkwater are solid WWII hero types, unassuming but determined, individual enough that it makes perfect sense for the more serious and cautious Grogan to be an officer while Tane is a grunt. Matthew Sunderland is a fine Nazi, with a layer of smug superiority that is always present, even when he's panicked or working alongside the good guys. And Gina Varela makes sure to play everything about her demoness big, from her sexuality on down to her disdain for her captors - a line about one being good and one being evil doesn't sound terribly complimentary to either - staying a step or two away on the right side of the line between larger-than-life and too much.

For as well as he handles the rest of the movie, Campion has spent most of his career doing visual effects, so that portion of the movie is, as one might expect, in good hands. Excellent hands, actually - the producers seized upon a delay in the production of the Hobbit movies to put otherwise idle hands at WETA Workshop to work, and the result is some high-quality blood, guts, and make-up work. It's an enjoyably messy horror movie, with the red stuff strewn all over the place and impressive attention to detail all around.

"The Devil's Rock" is admittedly rough around the edges, but it's firmly in the "pretty good" category. It's a nifty little supernatural thriller, and it will be interesting to see what Campion comes up with next.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22627&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/31/11 10:58:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

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USA
  N/A
  DVD: 14-Feb-2012

UK
  08-Jul-2011

Australia
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  DVD: 14-Feb-2012




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