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The Devil's Hand (2014)
DVD Released: 12/16/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/5/2014
Horror movies and religion have been at odds since the beginning. Did you know that in the original cut of James Whale's 1931 classic Frankenstein Dr. Frankenstein proclaimed "Now I know what it's like to be God!", but this line was soon cut by censors who found that dialogue to be blasphemous. Things really heated up in the late 1960s and early 1970s with movies like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist. And today, we still see scary movies which are centered around religious ideas, many of which are aimed at the Catholic Church. But, occasionally, someone does something a little (note, very little) different and we get movies like The Devil's Hand.
The Devil's Hand in an Amish/Mennonite-like sect know as New Bethlehem. On June 6, 1994, six girls are born simultaneously. Elder Deacon (Colm Meaney) believes this to be the fulfillment of the Drommelkind prophecy, which stated that six girls would be born and that on their 18th birthday, one would be revealed as a tool of the devil. Jacob Brown (Rufus Sewell) is able to stay Beacon's hand and stop him from killing the newborns. The action then leaps ahead to 2012, as the girls on the edge of turning eighteen. Mary Brown (Alycia Debnam Carey) is a strong-willed and forthright girl, who does not get along with her stepmother, Rebekah (Jennifer Carpenter). Ruth (Adelaid Kane) has a disposition similar to Mary's. Sarah (Leah Pipes) is very devout and obedient. Abby (Katie Garfield) is the most rebellious of the group and she longs to mingle with the boys from town. Hannah (Nicole Elliot) is a bit of a follower who shares some of Abby's feelings. Elder Deacon is still convinced that one of the girls is evil and that there must be a cleansing. Things begin to get weird when someone starts to kill the girls. Who is behind this and will any of them make it to their birthday?
The Devil's Hand is an odd hybrid of several other movies and stories. The Luddite nature of the sect has been seen before in movies likeDeadly Blessing (and obviously, Witness, but that doesnít really fit into our conversation), but we donít get this very often -- At least not when it takes place in modern times. Elder Beacon represents a brand of religious paranoia and hypocrisy which are a staple of horror films. The "Is or isn't someone evil?" plot has also been done before, but it's usually with someone younger than 18. However, Director Christian E. Christiansen actually made a far more derivative film with his 2011 Single White Female rip-off The Roommate.
Another odd thing about the movie is that 99% of it is a slasher movie. Going in, I had expected this to be a supernatural movie, not a throwback. But, it doesn't take long for the first murder to occur, and it quickly becomes clear that we are dealing with a movie that plays like an Amish-set version ofScream, complete with the fact that the killer wears a black, hooded robe. Along with the Scream-vibe, the movie also reminded me of a pilot for a CW show, as it would fit in perfectly with that networks other supernatural programs. Can't you just see this show with five unusually attractive religious sect girls investigating the odd crimes in their secluded community? It would be like the Amish Pretty Little Liars.
The oddest thing about The Devil's Hand is that it's yet another movie which languished on the shelf. (And went through multiple title changes.) The film was apparently shot in 2012 and had originally been scheduled for release in early 2013. If I hadn't read reports about this, my suspicions would have been confirmed by the fact that the film finally saw the light of day in 2014, but the action is mean to be taking place in 2012. And, like a lot of shelved movies, The Devil's Hand isn't all that bad. It's not ground-breaking or a new classic, but it held my attention and was by no means a train-wreck. The murder-mystery aspects of the slasher plot work fairly well and I was engaged in attempting to guess the killer's identity. (The red-herring was certainly obvious.) I liked the fact that the film examines religious hypocrisy, but it also shows a respect for the religion itself, something which is actually refreshing. The twist ending is one of those which has a 50-50 chance of swinging one way or another, so it's only mildly shocking. So, if you would like to see a movie which puts a slight twist on the slasher genre and peppers in some other genre traits, The Devil's Hand is worth a rental.
The Devil's Hand shows that a bonnet is a isn't a bold fashion statement on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, as any bright tones stand out against the colorless landscape of the sect, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is consistent, as the image is rarely soft and the depth is fine. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track presents one of the strangest problems which I've ever encountered. The dialogue and sound effects are very prominent in the right rear channel. At first, I was impressed with the surround sound, but they I realized that all of the audio was coming from the rear. There didn't appear to be any audio coming from the center channel, while the front channels exhibited dialogue and sound effects as well. The audio didn't move around, so the typical stereo and surround effects rules didn't apply. I double-checked my system, and it was working fine.
The lone extra on The Devil's Hand DVD is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long