Review: AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR

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Nicholas McCarthy hit the horror scene hard with his 2012 feature debut, THE PACT, catching viewers off guard and getting tons of praise within the horror community as well. With such a strong first film, the pressures of following up that debut could make a lesser man cave under the pressure, but alas, McCarthy obviously didn’t let that pressure get to him. His follow up, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (formerly titled HOME) not only gives horror fans another solid film from the talented filmmaker, but also provides an unsettling and completely unforgettable experience, instantly getting under your skin and well, scaring the living hell out of you.

Focusing at first on a young woman who sells her soul to the devil in exchange for a hefty bit of cash, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR is able to instantly set forth a tone that is ripe with tension, and a color palette that is at times shifts between a dry, desert-like feeling, to a dark and cold one.  While knowing very little about the film’s plot is definitely the way to go, the film shifts between the ’80s and on the unfortunate girl who made the horrendous choice of making a deal with Satan, to present day, dealing with Latin-American sisters; Leigh (MARIA FULL OF GRACE‘s Catalina Sandino Moreno) a real estate agent attempting to sell the house once inhabited by the soul-selling young woman, and Vera (GLEE‘s Naya Rivera), an artist not sure which direction she’s going in life. It’s that constant going back and forth between the past and the present that really helps AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR really tell a completely interesting and well-woven story, giving viewers not only one character to follow, but three, and while that might seem like a lot, McCarthy’s knack for storytelling really shines brightly with this one, never getting dull or uninteresting, instead staying intense and keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film.

McCarthy’s ability to get you used to and invested in characters, right before pulling the rug out from under you might turn some viewers off, but that approach definitely works for this film, almost giving you the feeling of watching multiple films, but ones that weave in and out of each other, all combining to tell a hell of a scary story. Typically the sub-genre of Satanic possession films tend to be a little on the cheesy side if not properly done, but AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR never heads into silly territory, instead it does everything with a completely straight face, building tension and terror and allowing that to play out in front of you. Topped with quite excellent performances by Rivera and Moreno as the two sisters who are eventually stalked by the devil, the film works on all levels, with not a single element misfiring or not succeeding in striking fear and terror into viewers. A big set of props as well, for the awesome choice to allow viewers to follow two incredibly strong Latin-American females, as the film’s lead characters. The horror genre seems to have a set idea of who should be it’s main characters, and choices like that in which McCarthy has made with this one, just proves how far the genre has come with equality, not only in regards to female characters, but also for different types of nationalities to play roles that aren’t just as important as the typical ones.

It’s a rare thing to give viewers such a strong debut as THE PACT, and follow it up with a sophomore  film that not only lives up the director’s first entry, but actually succeeds in surpassing it. In the Satanic sub-genre of horror, I’d challenge viewers to find a recent film that hits as hard and weaves a story as tightly-paced and well written as AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR. Well played, McCarthy, you’re two for two, now let’s see what you have for number three…

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