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At the Devil's Door (2014)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/16/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/26/2014
As someone who has reviewed home video releases for over 15 years, I've grown quite weary of the extras featured on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. Many of them are either redundant or designed for those who haven't just finished watching the movie. One thing that I do still enjoy is checking to see if the movie had a different title while it was being shot. Most people probably just assume that film titles come out of nowhere, but this can often be one of the most difficult parts of crafting a screenplay. In some instances, the title is changed prior to release because someone has decided that one name will be more marketable then another. The new horror film At the Devil's Door had a least one and possibly two names before its home video release which were more fitting.
Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is a real estate agent who specializes in selling homes which are in foreclosure. She's contacted by a couple to sell their house and when she tours it, she sees a teenaged girl (Ashley Rickards) in a red raincoat. The girl is very aloof, distant, and creepy. Leigh's appointment at the house keeps her from attending her sister Vera's (Naya Rivera) art show. As Leigh looks into the history of the house and questions some strange things, such as the fact that a small fire occurred in the home, she uncovers a mystery from the past. Soon, Vera finds herself pulled into this as well, and it becomes obvious that the girl in the raincoat is part of something much larger which involves a demonic presence.
While watching At the Devil's Door, I kept thinking that the film reminded me of 2012'sThe Pact, both in atmosphere and in plot. When the film was done, I checked the credits and saw that Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy had helmed both movies, so that explains my strong sense of similarity. Both movies deal with a woman who stumbles across a mystery from the past, who has a sister who assists in the investigation. Both deal with exploring houses and both are steeped in the supernatural. I consider The Pact to be one of the best ghost movies in recent memory, as it offers an intriguing story and some genuine suspense. With At the Devil's Door, McCarthy has nearly remade The Pact with a slightly different story.
Unfortunately, the final result is nowhere near as good. The problems with At the Devil's Door begin at the very outset of the movie, as we are treated to an opening sequence which is a little too vague for its own good. We get the gist of the situation -- something bad is going down -- but a little more how and why would have done the movie a huge favor. From there, the movie often gets mired in tedium. There are a lot of shots on Leigh driving and many shots of rain. Is this supposed to represent something? The first time that Leigh encounters the girl in the house, it is creepy, but as the sightings continue, this loses its power. The finale is simply ludicrous and the unrealistic nature of it will pull most viewers out of the movie.
At the Devil's Door feels like a movie which is meant to have a greater meaning, but I'm not sure if the point ever comes across. Again, Leigh deals in foreclosed houses and we hear radio reports about the economy. Is the movie conveying a political message or do the foreclosed houses have something to do with hauntings? (There is also a very prominent American flag in the background of an early shot. Did that mean something?) There also moments featuring burned doors which reminded me of the Japanese film Kairo. And while we're on the subject, what's the symbolism of the red shoes? McCarthy has seemingly created a movie which is meant to be "read", but he didn't provide us with the key code. The Pact was a quiet and subtle movie, but it provided just enough action to be successful. McCarthy tries a similar approach here, but the movie never seems to get where it is going. There is a lot of talking and a lot of silent moments, but no payoff. To McCarthy's credit, there is one amazing shot in the middle of the movie, but it's not enough to save it.
Getting back to my original point, the original name for At the Devil's Door was Home and may have possibly been Looking for a Home. That second one is an especially clever title, as it references both Leigh's work as a real estate agent and the idea of demonic possession. (Did some studio person decide to change the name? What does that new name even mean?) It's too bad that this kind of clever thinking didn't make its way into the movie. I don't have any issue with slow-burn horror movies, but if they never get to the point, that burn simply fades away. One gets the feeling that At the Devil's Door was much more coherent and interesting in the planning stages. However, the final product is a poorly edited movie whose lack of action doesn't justify all of the unanswered questions and leaps in logic.
At the Devil's Door will make you think twice about going to an open house on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat dark in spots, but otherwise this is a solid transfer. The colors are never overly bold, but they look fine, most notably the red raincoat. The level of detail is good, and the depth is excellent -- Which is important given the amount of action which occurs in the background. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix really capitalizes on the locations and mood of the film, as we get numerous stereo and surround effects to alert the viewer to things occurring off-screen, usually in other parts of the house. The subwoofer joins in for the "shock" moments.
The At the Devil's Door Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy. "Speaking of the Devil: The Making of At the Devil's Door" (18 minutes) opens with McCarthy describing the inspiration for the story. From there, we get an exploration of the casting, which includes interviews with the actors. Following this, the piece looks at the story, the themes, and the film's production. McCarthy also talks about issues with editing the film, which didn't surprise me. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes and can be viewed with COMMENTARY from McCarthy. These are all actually extended versions of scenes from the finished film. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long