The Devil’s Doorway (2018)
★ / ★★★★
Here is yet another found footage picture in which the filmmakers feel the need to shake the camera so relentlessly during the climax, it is near impossible to tell what’s going on. Couple this with a resolution that makes no sense whatsoever, the viewer is certain to enter a world of great frustration. Had the screenwriters—Martin Brennan, Aislinn Clarke, and Michael B. Jackson—been more astute, or have the slightest awareness, that their material actually has the potential to unspool at least a mildly intriguing story, despite the numerous clichés, they would have made the choice to do away with the found footage gimmick and tell the tale in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner.
Instead, what results is a forgettable horror film that lacks human drama, especially when it is set in a time and place (1960 Ireland) in which there was a lot of conflict and anger. Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and Father John (Ciaran Flynn) are sent to investigate a claim in a Magdalene asylum—to determine whether a statue of the Virgin Mary that weeps blood is in fact a miracle.
The former is convinced it is but convincing trickery, but the latter is willing—too willing—to embrace the phenomenon as supernatural. The clash between the two ideals is ripe for the picking, but the material appears to be more interested in providing cheap jolts rather than exploring the difference between the veteran and the tyro soldier of the Lord. It is likely that under a more standard narrative, the differences between the two men may have had a chance to be put under a more dramatic magnifying glass.
As for the scares it attempts to deliver, only one or two are inspired. Less intriguing are the ostentatious displays of the supernatural—body parts suddenly aflame, a pregnant woman (Lauren Coe)—suspected of being possessed by a demon or Satan himself—suddenly levitating from the bed, and eyeballs rolling in the back of one’s head. The special and visual effects look and feel cheap. They probably are. It is an excellent example of wanting to appease the modern viewer even though these flashy displays do nothing but hinder the film.
Its strength lies in the more subtle but exponentially horrifying moments. For instance, observe the scene in which the camera is simply placed right next to the pregnant woman’s face as a nun digs into her to acquire the infant. Because the camera is fixated on the subject’s face, the tearing of the flesh, the scraping of metallic utensils, and seeing the blood-soaked sheets in the background leave plenty to the imagination. Even though this woman is seemingly possessed by evil, in this scene, we relate to her anyway. Because during this moment, she is a woman first and a victim of demonic possession second. This is the level in which the movie should be functioning at all times.
One of its theses is good or evil coming from places or people one may not suspect. (Another is the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy.) Had the writers been more focused on what type of story they wish to tell—and how—they would have strived to make every moment count. Instead, for a movie with a running time of about seventy-five minutes, nearly half of it is senseless filler. One could go to the restroom for ten minutes and not miss a critical plot development. In place of realism, “The Devil’s Doorway,” directed by Aislinn Clarke, offers a lot of noisy decoration.