Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Devil May Care

It's all about wrongness. Establishing a bad place. Shirley Jackson famously set up the wrongness of Hill House in that book's exquisite opening paragraph -- "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality," and so on. Or think on Clarice Starling's first visit to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, as she descends into red-lit tombs -- of course there'd be a Hannibal Lecter waiting in that place, among the cobwebs, waiting, looking right at her. Every dank angle said so before we even saw him.

If I Trapped the Devil does anything well -- and it does several somethings well -- it is that it establishes a sense of horror inside its limited space. Matt (AJ Bowen) goes to visit his brother Scott (Scott Poythress) who's been holed up inside their family home for a spell too long, bringing his well-meaning wife Karen (Susan Burke) along with to lighten the mood. The whole film takes place inside this house, and writer-director Josh Lobo does ace work corrupting its corners, with a black stain emanating from the basement where we quickly learn Scott has, well, gone a little mad sometimes.

And Amity-style Scott's madness has infected the walls of this place -- I Trapped the Devil is delightfully a Christmas film, and Lobo borrows a page from the Black Christmas playbook, making the usually delightful holiday colors sick-inducing, gaudy and overdone. The festive bulbs are as thick as blood, wreathed around our throats, and the only carols sung in this place are poison, venomous whispers creeping up the staircase.

The film feels small but in a claustrophobic sense, ultimately working to its benefit -- at only 82 minutes long it never really allows itself to let up, and alongside Matt and Karen we feel infected by this place's badness, its rot. I found myself on the sunny afternoon as I watched this thing while lying in bed corrupted -- like I had to go wash my hands when it was finished. I Trapped the Devil might put the devil right inside you.
I Trapped the Devil opens this weekend!

1 comment:

Naomi House, INALJ said...

See THIS is why I need to jump off of Twitter and read more of your reviews- adding to my list