I Trapped The Devil

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I Trapped The Devil
"The real difficulty with a story like this is that until the door is opened it's all just speculation and after it's opened then one way another there won't be much left to say."

Don't you just love family Christmases? Steve (Scott Poythress) likes living alone. He's been troubled for a long time, experiencing the world in a different way from most people, yet though they find it difficult dealing with him, it doesn't seem to occur to his family members that he might find it just as wearing to have to deal with them. A surprise seasonal visit from his brother Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) is the last last thing he needs - especially with things being as they are.

When friends visit each other's houses it's usual for them to check that it's okay before so much as going to the toilet. Family members, however, frequently feel free to wander around at will, no matter how tense relations may be. This isn't always a good idea. When Matt wanders down into Steve's basement he sees a door there that's fortified with multiple bolts and locks and has a heavy cross mounted on it. From behind the door comes a man's voice. "Help me."

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Who is the man in the basement? Everything in the film hinges on this. Matt naturally assumes that he's some poor stranger who has been kidnapped as a result of his brother's paranoid delusions. Karen agrees, though with less sympathy than her husband, who begs her to let him talk to Steve before calling the police. Steve, however, insists that his prisoner is the Devil incarnate and that freeing him could doom them all - or worse.

Of course, viewers need a little extra help to be persuaded that Steve's contention deserves to be taken seriously. This is delivered partly at an emotional level - director Josh Lobo proves adept at conjuring up a creepy atmosphere - and partly by the demonstration, before much time has passed, that the man behind the door may not be entirely trustworthy. Even if one doesn't take the supernatural seriously, one might consider that Steve could have captured a dangerous man and interpreted him that way because of his illness. There are lots of possibilities.

The real difficulty with a story like this is that until that door is opened it's all just speculation and after it's opened then one way another there won't be much left to say. Lobo endeavours to build drama around the relationships between the three other characters. They're all well played and do a good job of keeping the situation believable. There isn't too much exposition yet we still get a strong sense of the history between them and of the strain that trying to be responsible for his brother has placed on Matt. Nevertheless, there isn't really enough of this to fill the 82 minute running time and the film consequently fails to make the impact that its central premise suggests.

There's a lot to admire about this film and it speaks well to the talent of those involved, but it's one of those ostensibly simple ideas that are really hard to pull off in practice and Lobo lacks the experience to draw out its full potential. Like Steve, he's got hold of something he doesn't quite know how to handle - but many genre fans will appreciate it nonetheless.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2019
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A man descends into paranoia after trapping what he believes to be the devil in his basement, but things take a dark turn when his family unexpectedly arrive for Christmas.

Director: Josh Lobo

Writer: Josh Lobo

Starring: Chris Sullivan, Jocelin Donahue, AJ Bowen, Scott Poythress, Susan Burke

Year: 2019

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: US

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