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THE DEVIL’S WELL (2016)

aka THE UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCE OF KARLA MARKS
Directed by Kurtis Spieler
Written by Kurtis Spieler
Starring Bryan Manley Davis, Chris Viemeister, David Alexander, Kristen Seavey, Jon Gregory, Lauren Sowa, Kurtis Spieler, Robert Riggs, Lisa Meckes, Jes Almeida, Rebecca Behrens, Nancy Marlowe Gordon, Mark Resnik, Tony Del Bono, & Anne-Marie Mueschke as Karla Marks!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

People say they are sick of found footage films. But I think as a response to that type of criticism, those types of films have transmorphed recently into the shockumentary, a mock-documentary format that, in some ways, addresses a lot of the criticisms the found footagers receive. Similar in tone to the excellent LAKE MUNGO (one of the most underrated horror films in the last decade or so, which I reviewed here), THE DEVIL’S WELL follows a more investigative, 60 MINUTES approach that bridges the gap between cinematically filmed and first person POV style films, and does so in a successfully creepy manner.

When Karla Marks (Anne-Marie Mueschke) goes missing after a paranormal investigation with her husband Bryan (Bryan Manley Davis), many feel that Bryan had something to do with it. But Bryan attests that he thinks something paranormal occurred in the rumored-to-be haunted locale dubbed “The Devil’s Well” and masses together another team of paranormal investigators to return to the site and try to get to the bottom of the disappearance and prove something paranormal is going on.

Many questions come up while making a found footage film. Why are they still filming? Why is there so much boring lead-in and a rushed/obscured ending? Why should we care about these people who can’t even hold a camera steadily? Much of this is addressed in THE DEVIL’S WELL and I found it refreshing that this feels like a post modern found footager because it learns from the mistakes of so many of the films of this kind have committed in the past. Why are they filming? While the team really want to prove the paranormal exists, there are skeptics in the group who think Bryan staged all of this or worse yet, Bryan did something to Karla, so they want to follow Bryan closely to get to the truth. There’s already a mystery here and in the way this film is presented as a 20/20 investigative sort of piece, it is understandable why the cameras remain rolling as well as why we should care about whether Karla is found or not. Bryan (Davis) does a great job of walking that line whether or not he is trustworthy, so the investment is established nicely here from the beginning with interviews from family, friends, and investigators on the case who both want believe in Bryan’s story, but also suspect something else is going on. The fact that Bryan and Karla’s website has blown up with hits is motive enough for them to stage this as a hoax. So all of these questions leading up to the investigation had me by the short hairs.

The cast also does a great job of not looking like supermodels and acting like real people, another essential component of a truly believable found footage film. The investigators are exactly what you think of them to be and we get enough back story on them to believe they could be the real thing. Each character feels lived in, even though the story doesn’t call for a lot of back story, it is peppered in to help the viewer understand why people are doing what they are doing and shows a sophistication to the writing that is not present in most found footagers.

There will be some who give this one a pass simply because it’s found footage, but you’d be missing a good one. THE DEVIL’S WELL is a structurally sound and tightly written tale of paranoia, paranormal things, and missing people. The ending might frustrate some as there is no huge reveal of a monster or anything of this sort, but it does wrap things up rather creepily without throwing a slam-bang effects spectacular climax that wouldn’t fit with the modest budgeted way the rest of the films plays out. The final words saying that “People hearing a noise in the middle of the night think it’s a monster, when they should really be afraid it is another person. But people are going to believe what they want to believe.” is a fun capper on this film that says a lot about how the whole thing can be perceived. I definitely recommend this film to folks who are fans of the found footage subgenre.

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