Sarah Harrison, Elizabeth Bell, Bill Oberst Jr, Grey Damon
Seminal Films (DVD)
Serina (Elizabeth Di Prinzio, Crimson) is celebrating her 18th birthday with a pool party in the Hollywood Hills. The only problem is that one guest is uninvited.
Written by Matt Dean (Legend of the Red Reaper) and directed by Tom Hardy, The Devil Within is for the most part a fairly straightforward, low-budget indie horror flick with ample amounts of violence, T&A, fine lookin' young adults, gratuitous sex and healthy doses of humor.
Despite what seems like a fairly predictable set-up, The Devil Within is a rather pleasant surprise largely owing to the strength of Hardy's pacing, Matt Dean's gift for dialogue and a strong ensemble cast that seems to understand both the horror and humor aspects of the film.
Described in its marketing materials as a blend of Mean Girls and Scream (a decent description), The Devil Within has all the ingredients to be quite the whodunnit with multiple characters with seemingly shady potential.
There's Principal Edwards (Bill Oberst, Jr.), a not so closeted pedo who eerily seems to show up at the weirdest times in the weirdest places.
There's Reverend Parsons (David Light), a doomsday preacher with a message for our partying teens.
There's even a goth girl (of course!), played by Sarah Kathryn Harrison, whose rocky home life may leave her predisposed to random acts of violence.
Or could it be one of the others?
Kudos to Dean for a script that keeps you guessing all along and, perhaps even moreso, for building a story that remains interesting the entire time even if it is, on the outside, not much more than a paint-by-numbers slasher flick.
Looking at it purely from the slasher aspect, The Devil Within drops a few notches with chills that aren't particularly chilling, violence that is brutal but not particularly disturbing and a fear factor that is noticeably missing despite an abundance of dark rooms, blind spots and slashings from out of nowhere. On the other hand, somewhat similarly to Scream, The Devil Within is more entertaining, smarter and infinitely more interesting than most slasher flicks with an unrelenting brutality that is emotionally impactful despite its less than graphic nature.
While it's to be expected in a low-budget indie, especially horror, that the cast will be a bit hit-and-miss, the cast here is solid across all the major roles with props going especially to Bill Oberst Jr's seriously messed up principal, David Light's preacher, Jamie Lea Willett and a nicely complex turn from Sarah Harrison.
The Devil Within largely avoids the usual tech issues found in most low-budget indies with sound, lighting and the camera work of Terence Pratt generally solid. Craig Eastman's original music nicely companions the film, as well.
While The Devil Within could have been a touch stronger in the horror department, first-time director Tom Hardy and screenwriter Matt Dean have constructed a brutal, entertaining, funny and immensely satisfying film pulled off with enough style and confidence that there's no doubt we'll be hearing from both of these young men in the years to come.
The Devil Within is being released on home video on June 29th, 2010 by Seminal Films. For more information, visit the Seminal Films website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic