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OF THE DEVIL (2022)
Directed by Kelton Jones.
Written by James Cullen Bressack (story by), Kelton Jones(screenplay).
Starring Jonathan Stoddard, Daniela Palavecino, Eileen Dietz, Vernon Wells, Robert LaSardo, Roslyn Gentle, Vicki Gunvalson, Robi Austin, Annabel Barrett, Brennen Bunn, Clint Carney, Heidi Carney, Otis Johnson, Dekland Jones, Kelton Jones, Zeke Jones, Colin Koth, Lauren Louis
After their son Alex (Lucas Sequeira) is diagnosed with a brain tumor, his parents Ben and Norma (Jonathan Stoddard and Daniela Palavecino) desperately try to find a cure for him. But when medical science fails them, they take Alex to Mexico to get some more radical and unconventional treatment. But the methods of the witch doctor (Robert Lasardo) seems to kill Alex. Returning home, Alex miraculously awakens seemingly fine. But soon begins acting strangely, as if some kind of evil force has entered his body. After much turmoil and paranormal events, Ben and Norma take Alex to a priest (Vernon Wells) in hopes to save his soul.
While there are some shocking moments, OF THE DEVIL feels like a very typical possession film. I think everyone behind and in front of the camera are giving their all, but with possession movies, you’re taking on a Sisyphus-ian task of distinguishing oneself from the greatest horror movie of all time, THE EXORCIST. OF THE DEVIL doesn’t try to do this too much—it even has Eileen Dietz (who played the part of the demon in THE EXORCIST) in it. Still, the story takes a few unconventional turns and has a few scenes that end up being quite shocking.
I appreciate what James Cullen Bressack (who has written and directed scores of low fi horror films from FROM JENNIFER to BLOOD LAKE) does with the script. He fills it with one strange event after another—including a chilling scene where it is evident that the suspicions of the parents are solidified when Alex does a mass sacrifice in the backyard. Actors Jonathan Stoddard and Daniela Palavecino are quite talented and decently carry the dramatic heft of dealing with a son with a tumor and then a stolen soul. The small cameos by the always great Robert Lasardo and ROAD WARRIOR’s Vernon Wells are nice to see, though they feel like stunt casting of people playing themselves rather than actual key players in this story. Even little Lucas Segueira does a decent job as the possessed kid.
But that doesn’t save this film from landing with a plop of a climax. While it’s supposed to be a shockeroo, the appearance of a certain horned fallen angel in the final moments just feels hokey. While it shoots for the moon, OF THE DEVIL feels more like a collection of good ideas sealed together with cheap glue. You’ve got to be pretty amazing to be a possession film that stands out, and OF THE DEVIL just doesn’t hack it.