At the Devil's Door (2014)
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy.
Cast: Naya Rivera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ashley Rickards, Ava Acres, Tara Buck, Wyatt Russell, Kent Faulcon, Bresha Webb, Daniel Roebuck, Jan Broberg, Nick Eversman, Olivia Crocicchia, Arshad Aslam.
2014 91 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 4, 2014.
Shifting central protagonists no less than three times throughout, the unconventionally structured, familiarly plotted "At the Devil's Door" keeps one guessing as to where things are headed, but then ultimately doesn't lead to a satisfying conclusion. The film is set up as a mystery, but provides only surface-level payoffs. Furthermore, by not being given fully developed characters or established rules or parameters to the movie's supernatural dealings, all the viewer is left to hold onto is the strength of the somewhat stifled actors' performances. Sometimes, when a horror picture exhibits signs of more promise than it ultimately delivers, a palpably dark and creepy mood isn't quite enough to smooth over its fundamental shortcomings.
When teenage runaway Hannah (Ashley Rickards) agrees to sell her soul in exchange for five hundred dollars, her decision not only spells her doom, but informs the fates of complete strangers, grown sisters Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and Vera (Naya Rivera). What follows Hannah home is far from human, but it wants to become "all of someone"and will do everything in its power to achieve this. Writer-director Nicholas McCarthy (2012's "The Pact") is an adroit craftsman who knows how to flood his surroundings in a stormy sea of portent, and it is to his credit that his unpredictable script does not telegraph where it is going until it gets there. Unfortunately, once revealed, the story's narrative path underwhelms, relying on contrived character actions to push itself forward.
Naya Rivera (of "Glee" fame) and Catalina Sandino Moreno (2006's "Fast Food Nation
") are compelling co-leads as siblings struggling to remain a part of each other's lives, but they are mostly at the mercy of a collection of set-pieces that require them to walk slowly through darkened rooms as demonic forces mess with them. They also both have a predilection for yanking sheets off of mirrors, though why anyone would get the urge to do such a thing in the ominous house of a stranger is a question for the ages. "At the Devil's Door" deals up some infernal imagery that chillingly toys with concepts of identity and the unknown, yet these individual moments do not collectively build to anything of note. Grimly suggestive though it is, the film's destination strikes as a copout.