Director – Nicholas McCarthy
Cast – Catalina Sandino Moreno, Naya Rivera, Ashley Rickards
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I am sure we have all seen numerous films where a strange person shows up to someone’s front door, they let them in with good will, and the decision turns out to be a disastrous one. On the surface it looked like At The Devil’s Door would be this type of film, but I was wrong. While something similar does occur, writer/director Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) delivers a truly unique experience that is unlike the majority of horror films we see these days. With such a story comes a few faults that kept it from greatness, but thanks to mostly-positive direction At The Devil’s Door provides a few good spooks.
When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a home with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she learns is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh’s artist sister into its web – and has sinister plans for both of them.
McCarthy’s story begins with an engaging intro where a young girl makes the hasty decision to sell her soul to the Devil. The man who aids her in this transformation informs her that “he” will call for her soon, and soon enough he does. We are given some spooky scenes early on, about 12 minutes into the flick, where inanimate horror is used to taunt the young girl, and the viewer. I really enjoyed this sequence because its simplicity was highly effective, and inanimate horror has always been spooky for me. At the same time, we are also introduced to Leigh, and the hit/miss relationship she has with her sister Vera. Leigh first comes across the mysterious girl in red at the 20-minute mark, but she, and the viewer, are left to not think much of it. However, bout 15 minutes later we are exposed to an extreme development that changes everything we know about the girl in red. Hold on though, there is more. Less than ten minutes after this we are given another development that changes the scope of the plot, and this is a character-related one that I did not see coming. It is at this point that the horror begins to manifest greatly, giving us some surprising creature action and solid spooks until the flick’s love/hate climax.
I liked the story, but at the same time there was always something missing. It had the spooks, and they were paced very well, but the end result did not align with the horror seen beforehand. There is a payoff, but it is hardly a payoff worthy of the positive terror seen early on. I also was left a bit unengaged with the character play. The two sisters dominate the plot, but neither was really likable and that naturally leaves me not giving a damn about what happens to them. The same can also be said for the girl in red, so really, there is nothing to look forward here except for the horror and that is not always a good thing.
McCarthy’s direction fared much better than his writing. I enjoyed the atmosphere he provided and found its gloomy exposure and “temperature” to be fitting for the subject matter. His horror, especially the inanimate horror, left me very impressed as it gave me chills that I was not expecting. He managed to keep good tension as the film progressed, with the latter sequences of horror still spooking me despite some cheap CGI. The performances from the main actresses were fair, but that is about it. They were nothing special and nobody stole the show here, which is the one element of McCarthy’s direction that mimicked his writing.
Overall, At The Devil’s Door is one of those flicks that gets the good things right but at the same time lacks the elements that make for a good film. I enjoyed the horror, and you probably would too, but is it worth sitting through the rest of the film? You’ll need to watch and decide for yourself.