THE DEVIL BELOW (2021)
aka SHOOKUM HILLS, SINKHOLE
Directed by Bradley Parker.
Written by Eric Scherbarth, Stefan Jaworski.
Starring Alicia Sanz, Adan Canto, Zach Avery, Chinaza Uche, Jesse Latourette, Jonathan Sadowski, Will Patton, William Mark McCullough, Alpha Trivette, Tom Proctor, Nathan Phillips, Duncan Novak
A group of geologists make their way into Appalachian territory into a lost mining community that has since closed its doors due to a series of natural disasters and tragedies. At least that is what the town of Shookum wants the world to think. As the geologists break in and investigate one of the holes, it seems they have disturbed something horrifying from deep within the earth.
Now, I don’t want to oversell THE DEVIL BELOW, but I happened upon a few reviews for the film that were pretty unforgiving to the film and while it isn’t one of the best creature feature films, it is clear many of those reviewers out there haven’t seen some of the low fi horrors I’ve encountered. I feel like the filmmakers were attempting to make some kind of mix between THE DESCENT and JERUZALEM or AS ABOVE SO BELOW. While it is not as good as any of those films, it checks all of the boxes decently. There are some interesting scenes building up to the big discovery of the monsters who appear to be part humanoid/part worm-like TREMORS graboid. None of the characters are standouts, but all of them do a decent job of avoiding the monsters until, ultimately, they don’t. And you’ve got character actor Will Patton in there are a grizzled miner who is trying to keep trespassers away from the giant sinkholes.
I know I’ll take some flack for this, as the subgenre is dying down as of late, but I think THE DEVIL BELOW might have been better had it been a found footage film. All of the setup is there with a research team venturing illegally into uncharted territory only to find monstrous and possibly supernatural creatures. With director Bradley Parker helming the not-horrible CHERNOBYL DIARIES, I can understand why the director might steer clear from making this another handheld horror, but still, I think much of the problems regarding difficult action to see in the nighttime and night vision footage, and a shadowy and almost indecipherable underground climax could have been rectified using first person POV.
While it isn’t the best monster movie, I liked the setting, the lore, and some of the suspense in THE DEVIL BELOW. The film starts out with a stunning drone shot overlooking a mining operation. I think the superstition about what exactly the locals think the monsters were could have been developed more, but the monsters were slimy, gross, and looked pretty cool for what I saw of them. Not the highest recommendation, I know, but if creature features are your thing, you could do worse.