At the Devil’s Door (2014): A Twist on the Robert Johnson Myth (Review)

At the Devil’s Door takes the Robert Johnson myth, the musician reportedly sold his soul to the devil to enhance his guitar playing skills, and takes it in a completely different direction.  From the moment the precocious teen passes the test and completes the $500 transaction; heading down to the crossroad to speak her name, the atmosphere becomes darker, unsettling and full of foreboding.

The location is not Mississippi and the time is the present.   The young lady is co-erced by her lover to sell her soul. As the film progresses we learn more about the girl; Hannah (played by Ashley Rickards) who vanishes until real estate agent Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) stumbles across her at a house she is selling.

It is interesting to note that the girl appears only after Leigh uncovers the mirror in the bedroom. (Another bit of mythology here with the superstition that mirrors should be covered after a death to keep the spirits from coming back through…)

At the Devil’s Door is a slow burning horror film that seems to borrow from a number of other movies and or books.  The “birth” of the devil (which the film sets up as the arrival of the new Anti-Christ) mirrors, rather closely, Rosemary’s Baby and peripherally Ju-on: The Grudge 2, where Kayako comes back via a pregnancy.

Also, it bears mentioning that Hannah wears a red hoodie in the film. This, combined with her diminutive height of 5’3,” is a clear nod to Don’t Look Now. Another film that has less in the way of classic jump scares and  much more in the area of atmosphere.)

(What the film does not rely upon, or allude to, is the 1976, or the 1996 remake, of The Omen. A film that deals primarily with the coming of the Anti-Christ.)

Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact, Holidays – Easter segment) At the Devil’s Door is a dark, moody horror film that manages to sneak in a couple of “jump scares” and leaves the viewer slightly off balance and unsettled by the end.

The film, inspired, McCarthy says, by a Chilean cab driver’s story in New York, is a mix of selling your soul and then involving sisters a’la Psycho.  It is an interesting notion. The story, as told to McCarthy, was that after selling his soul, the cab driver then had to tell the witchdoctor his name; so the devil would know who to call.

Another variation on the superstitious belief that giving one’s true name to a demon, or evil entity, is to give them power over the speaker. With all these superstitions and nods to other stories about the devil, the “big bad” is never mentioned by name.

This is an excellent second project that features much of the same jarring aspects of McCarthy’s 2012 horror film The Pact. At the Devil’s Door can be seen as a cautionary tale at its core except for the fact that (Somewhat like The Grudge.) the entity jumps from woman to woman until it gets what it needs.

The film is not rated, but there is very little graphic violence and literally no sex at all.  The language is not offensive and there is no drug use whatsoever.  Apart from the scary nature of the film, with its atmospheric tenseness and sense of foreboding, it could be rated G.

At the Devil’s Door is a solid 4 star film. It is offbeat and, in places, quite intense. McCarthy has managed, with a minimum of muss and fuss, to give us a film that is creepy, slightly scary and, at times, very unsettling. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment and can be downloaded for watching offline as well.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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