Devil's Night

*

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Devil's Night
"Good equipment can't do the whole job, and somebody here has clearly become overexcited about playing with filters in post."

There once was a time when crisp photography and nicely framed aerial shots were a guarantee of at least a degree of quality in a film. As Devil's Night soon makes clear, that time is gone. What has been great for film on one level - the reduced cost of good quality equipment opening up opportunities for creative talent once priced out of the industry - has been bad on another, making new content much more difficult to curate. There's an unfortunate belief that anybody can make a watchable film if only they've seen a few - or played a few video games.

Devil's Night is rendered very much in the language of video games, with odd character positioning and curious little cut-aways which will make no sense to viewers without that background. This also explains its monster, which is based loosely on legends of Detroit hobgoblin the Nain Rouge - and goes by that name - but is basically a wee guy in a hoodie who looks as if he got lost on the way to a children's party. We only know he's supposed to be scary because he's painted red and has a tail, and because people say so - a lot.

Those people include a military veteran who, like many people in her situation, has returned from combat overseas to take up a job as a police officer. She's shocked by the level of brutality she sees at certain murder scenes and gradually connects them with freshly circulating stories about the Nain Rouge. Unwilling to accept her colleagues' insistence that all violence can be traced back to gang activity in the city, she makes independent efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery, which mostly involve running around graveyards or decaying buildings in pursuit of a creature which is curiously unwilling to get close to her until the plot requires it. Meanwhile, an effort is made to put the city under curfew, leading to public protests which at least give the film a topical selling point. A studiously creepy-looking priest talks about the importance of togetherness and assorted suited men look at one another with serious faces.

There's not much else. We see very little of the talked-up violence, which, given what we do see (in one scene the monster grapples its foe with what looks more like a hug), is probably a good thing. Then again, more action might conceivably spare us from the dialogue, which lands as if lead balloons were going out of fashion. The lead, to her credit, makes an effort to act but receives no help from the director, who is content to let her stand there like a numpty gesticulating with her arms when she's supposed to be addressing someone over the phone.

Even the pretty camerawork doesn't last. Good equipment can't do the whole job, and somebody here has clearly become overexcited about playing with filters in post. Mist comes out of nowhere like the ghost of Ed Wood and some scenes look as if they have been filmed through a glass of tea. It's a shame that this inventiveness didn't extend to the plot. Some viewers may find Devil's Night entertaining because of its failures, but others will feel that, like the Nain Rouge of old, it should be persuaded to keep itself hidden or driven out of town.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2020
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A military veteran returns home and works in law enforcement. She's assigned to a supernatural case that's surrounded by urban myth and legend.

Director: Sam Logan Khaleghi

Writer: Sean Tretta

Starring: Nathan Mathers, Jeri Jensen, Swifty McVay

Year: 2020

Runtime: 94 minutes

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