Movie Review: “At The Devil’s Door” Slowly Succumbs To Conventional Horror

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Review by James McDonald

When an ambitious young real estate agent is asked to sell a house 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 she tries to help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that has sinister plans.

“At the Devil’s Door” is a movie that starts off moody and atmospheric but then gradually gives way to stereotypical textbook horror. Many of the visual effects which are seen briefly and at other times implied, are genuinely scary and used to great effect in the first half of the movie but as it nears its anti-climactic finale, these same effects acquiesce into repetition and the film quickly runs out of steam. The movie starts off with a young girl, Hannah (Ashley Rickards), who after moving to California to be with her boyfriend, is talked into selling her soul to the devil. She’s told she will receive $500 and to her, as she doesn’t believe in all this stuff, it is an opportunity too good to pass up.

But once she moves back home, strange things start happening to her and after taking a pregnancy test which reveals her to be with child, even though she’s a virgin, she takes her own life, afraid of what’s growing inside of her. Many years later, Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a young and beautiful real estate agent, is asked by an older couple if she will sell their property for them as quickly as possible, the house having previously belonged to Hannah and her parents. She agrees and one afternoon, she visits the empty house to check it out where she starts seeing visions of Hannah. She is assaulted and eventually killed by an unseen force and it is then up to her sister Vera (Naya Rivera), to investigate exactly how and why she was killed and why Hannah took her own life all those years ago.

Director Nicholas McCarthy shoots his film very evocatively of the horror movies of the 70s and 80s, wide shots where we can see everything onscreen accompanied by some very slow tracking shots filled with trepidation and uneasiness. It is a dark film, the gloominess often punctured only by our protagonist’s flashlight or the occasional beam of sunlight that streaks in from outside. While the first half of the film has some admittedly frightening scenes, it slowly wears off in the latter half when the movie tries to assume the identity of “The Omen” and it is at this juncture, that the movie fails. The performances by all involved were surprisingly credible and while the movie overall, is beautiful to look at, try as it may, it cannot climb out of its unexceptional, clichéd grave.

On VOD and all digital platforms now and in theaters September 12th

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James McDonald
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