THE DEVIL'S ROCK
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Jessica Grace Smith
What's it about
A Kiwi soldier sent on a sabotage mission to the Channel Islands is captured by a Nazi soldier attempting to leash a flesh-eating she-demon for the Fuhrer.
Is it good movie?
The cover image for this film implies some sort of Nazi exploitation vibe, and had me worried. Luckily, it is nothing of the sort. It is actually closer to a filmed play. Set the day before D-Day, two Kiwi soldiers are sent on a covert sabotage mission somewhere in the Channel Islands. Their target is a superfluous gunnery on a small island, but is part of a larger series of annoyance missions meant to distract Hitler from the coming invasion of Normandy. But once at the Nazi installation, they hear a woman screaming. Thinking it’s someone being tortured, they venture in to save her, only to discover an ancient evil hungry for the flesh of the living.
That ancient evil turns out to be a female demon who assumes the form of the most beloved one in the eye of her beholder, a guise she uses to lure men close enough for her to chew the living flesh from their bones. The film then becomes a two-man, one-demon play, with the Nazi employing the Ally’s help in banishing the demon. Or is that his true intention? You can never trust those wily Nazis…especially when it was he, in the name of the Fuhrer, who invoked her in the first place with the hope of harnessing her evil for the sake of the Fatherland.
The Devil’s Rock is definitely a case of a low-budget inspiring genius. Writer/director Paul Campion (who describes himself as a “horror director,” bless his heart) was looking to get a movie off the ground, was finding it tough, so stripped away all unnecessary bullshit and made a low to the ground, close, tense movie. It has only two sets – each built alternately on one small soundstage – and a minimum of location shooting. What it does instead is focus on the characters, and follows them in real time. It’s got a slow-build, but gets rights to the plot once you’re involved. There’s not a lot of exposition or hemming and hawing. Just a demon and two men: one with an agenda, and one caught between doing what’s right and just surviving.
Also, a note about the gore: most of this film is literally wall to wall gore. The blood-streaked walls and mutilated corpses are meant to convey the idea that the demon has masticated her way through the installation, and it does. But the gore is…classy, in a way. It’s there, you can see it, the characters occasionally interact with it, but it is never guts for guts’ sake. It’s hard to explain, but I was proud in a strange way. Like, “Here! Here is a gore film that is not lowest-common-denominator. Here is gore that serves a great story.” I don’t know. Maybe I’m just weird.
Video / Audio
Video: 16x9 enhanced, with 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The lighting in a film like this, which takes places first on a beach at night, then in a dark bunker, is very important. This film succeeds in being dark enough to be creepy, but never so dark as to be obfuscating.
Audio: Much like the budget, there is an economy of audio. There’s just the one 5.1 surround track (but hey, what else do you need?) which sounds great, and one English SDH subtitle track.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: There are five BTS featurettes here: Blood and Gore; Making of Featurette; Pre-Production; Production; and Post-Production. Taken as a whole, this collection absolutely covers every single thing you might want to know about this film. I rarely watch entire featurettes, because they’re usually tedious, but these were all absolutely fascinating. My favorite part was a time-lapse image of the two main sets being built and then broken down.
VFX Breakdown: Much like on the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz discs, this is a quick collection of VFX-heavy scenes, show as storyboards, then principal photography, then with all the matte paintings and CG renderings layered over them. Interesting in an academic way.
Extended Scenes: Just a few spare minutes of footage from two scenes. Nothing integral to the plot, just a bit of exposition.
Alternate Multicam Takes: This is a collection of scenes shown with three insets: A Camera, with a 32mm lens, Camera B (50mm), and then the final edit of the two. A couple of the scenes have a fourth inset, which is the camera documenting the filming.
Outtakes: In a dark movie such as this, where there really isn’t a moment of humor, a collection of bloopers and set antics is especially fun to watch. As is the case here.
Commentary with writer/director Paul Campion: This commentary is informative, but Campion is not as animated and entertaining as he is in the making-of featurettes. Still, he’s a smart and talented dude, so if you’re into filmmaking this is a good track to give a listen. He does point out a great cameo, but you’ll just have to listen to find out who and where.
The Devil’s Rock was quite a surprise to me. It is a great example of both how economy can breed a great film, and how gore can be used to propel a narrative instead of just being jack-off material for lesser horror nerds. I’m always a sucker for a WWII film, but throw in a flesh-eating she-demon, and it’s wins all around. I highly suggest this movie, and with its raft of special features, picking up the disc for your collection is also a great idea.