Actors: Ashley Rickards, Naya Rivera, Catalina Sandino Moreno
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: MPI Home Video
Release Date: December 16, 2014
Run Time: 95 minutes
Filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) has a real sense for creating dread onscreen, creating some truly terrifying images to go with the narrative in At the Devil’s Door. The only problem is that nothing in his derivative screenplay matches the visuals created, making At the Devil’s Door feel more like a horror demo reel than a complete story. Frightening as some of the images are, they are neither grounded in reality nor attached to realistic characters that the audience can be convinced to care for. Instead, each scene merely feels derived for the singular purpose of setting up each atmospheric sequence to the next, like a collection of style-heavy student films rather than a complete narrative.
The approach to the narrative is somewhat unconventional, seeming unexpected in the first half, though this is mostly due to a convoluted attempt at twists. The pieces don’t all fit together, but each individual part is still somehow reminiscent of far better films. We begin with a eerie opening sequence that never quite matches with the rest of the film. A young girl sells her soul to the devil for a pocketful of cash, and then we jump forward in time to a real estate agent’s difficulty selling the childhood home of the same girl.
The first half of the film mostly resembles a haunted house narrative, as real estate agent, Leigh (Catalina Sandino), begins to notice odd occurrences in the empty home. She has repeated encounters with a girl, later discovering that the family’s daughter had gone missing while living in the house. These make for some truly frightening sequences, though the images are mostly effective with no help or advancement of the film’s screenplay. Because we have no attachments to the characters in the film, it is hardly effective when McCarthy attempts twists in the narrative, switching protagonists halfway through.
Leigh’s moody artist sister, Vera (“Glee” co-star Naya Rivera), becomes entangled in the mystery as well, though it does little to alter the film. Because we know so little about these characters and care about them even less, there is no impact in switching stars. They are both basically props in the delivery of atmosphere and horror images. This film may get McCarthy his next directing gig, but let’s hope he takes a break from screenwriting next time.
The Blu-ray release includes a commentary track with McCarthy, who also offers optional commentary on the deleted scenes included in the extras. There is also a making-of featurette, and the film’s trailer.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4.5/10
Historical Significance: 2/10
Special Features: 7.5/10