Devil’s Mile (2014): Deja Vu All Over Again (Review)

Poster for Devil's Mile

In his first feature-length film Joseph O’Brien  wears a number of hats. He wrote, directed, produced (and worked as visual effect supervisor) on “Devil’s Mile” a film that was all about deja vu and where a single decision leads a protagonist to make the day run its course all over again.  This film a slightly reminiscent of  the 2009 Melissa George film  “Triangle” and owes quite a lot to the 2003 horror film  “Dead End” as well.

It also appears that O’Brien was influenced by the Yambito in the PS2 survival horror video game “Forbidden Siren 2.” There is also a nod to “Ju-on The Grudge.”

In fact the tale of three dysfunctional kidnappers who take two Japanese girls, one of whom is the wrong target, and how their long night heads straight downhill, borrows from a number of other films in the genre.

Maria del Mar and Casey Hudecki are cellmates Cally and Jacinta respectively, along with David Hayter (who used to voice Solid Snake in the video game “Metal Gear Solid”)  and all three argue, bicker and annoy the literal hell out of one another at the start of the film setting themselves up for failure from the word go. 

While there are some truly scary moments in the film, that Japanese ghost girl is pretty horrific in a CG Ju-on/Ringu sort of way, and Hayter is good for a couple of scares later on.

There are plot-holes. The van is never really explained and the mumbo-jumbo being spouted on the video tape playing in the vehicle just sounds rambling and nonsensical.  There are flashbacks, or flash-forwards, that only make sense later and (back to that van again) the “driver” that Cally and Jacinta encounter is illogical and never explained.

(Granted the scene where the two women meet the scary driver, is one of the funniest, and perhaps most real, in the entire film. When Cally discharges her weapon that second time, it is a really laugh out loud moment.

Hudecki (who has done almost as many stunts as she has acting jobs) stands out in her performance of kidnapper with a secret. Veteran actress del Mar is spot on as the older cellmate who developed “mama hen” feelings for Jacinta.

Another veteran performer Frank Moore is Mr. Arkadi; the scary crime boss who is world weary and ruthless with it. The only let down is, somewhat surprisingly, Hayter. The actor has a slew of credits to his name as voice over actor in the video game world and yet his performance lacks something in this film.

“Devil’s Mile” will not win any awards but it does entertain.  There are some surprising moments a couple of twists and despite a somewhat verbal false ending, it  is not a bad film at all.

The FX are a bit uneven but the blood looks very convincing and that Japanese dead girl is pretty impressive in a Playstation 2 sort of way.

Overall this is a 3.5 star out of 5.  It tries to be a bit too clever and loses something in translation as a result.  Had Hayter not been so annoying as the tough nut leader the film might have worked better, but to be honest, the actor has moments that do work pretty well.

Available on Amazon Prime to stream it is worth a look. It is, however, nothing to get too excited about.

Triangle (2009): If At First You Don’t Succeed

Written and directed by Christopher Smith Triangle is the third film that Smith donned two hats for as creator. The story follows Jess (Melissa George) single mum of an autistic child. We first see Jess dockside, she is going on a day-trip with a group of friends on a yacht. Jess seems a little out of it. Dazed and confused, when she is asked about her son, she responds in a very vague fashion. She boards the yacht and so begins our adventure.

Once they get out at sea they are hit by sudden electrical storm and the yacht capsizes. As they cling desperately to the boat, a ship approaches their stricken vessel. The group of five board the ship only to find it deserted. They decide to explore it to see if there is anyone on board the seemingly empty ship. Jess is plagued by a sense of Deja Vue and catches a glimpse of a masked figure.

While the Jess and co. are searching for other people, the masked figure is killing them off, one by one. Jess finally confronts the masked killer only to find that it is her. Jess dispatches  her masked self and dumps her body overboard. While doing this she sees the yacht and herself and her friends boarding the ship. Jess realizes that she has been caught in a time loop and that she must kill everyone quickly before the loop can repeat itself. When she seemingly does this, she discovers that she has apparently been caught in this loop over and over again.  As she kills each of her friends, however,  we can see that she has done this same thing before and by the pile of her friends bodies, she has done it a lot.

Jess escapes the boat and ends up back home where she observes herself interacting with her autistic son. Jess is horrified to see that she is not a good mother. She mistreats her son and is quite nasty to him saying that her life would be so much better without him in it. Jess then kills her other self and decides to bring her son with her on the yacht trip.

This film was brilliant.  While watching it, I would find myself guessing what would happen next only to realize that I was incorrect. The best I could do was figure out the Ground Hog Day aspect of the film but not the O. Henry ending. Melissa George was excellent in the film. And why wouldn’t she be. With a list of horror films under her belt, 30 Days of Night, Amityville Horror, Triangle, The Betrayed, A Lonely Place to Die, she is the new millenniums “Scream Queen”

Triangle opened to positive reviews. Unfortunately this was a case where the critics loved the film and the audience stayed away in droves. I don’t know why this film fared so badly with the audience. I saw the film after my daughter had seen it and then raved on about it non-stop until I said I would see it. After watching it I decided she was right to be so excited about the film. But the die had already been cast, because the DVD came out so quickly that I thought the distributors had made a mistake.

Triangle is a brilliant and tragic film. Watch it and you will not regret it.  Hell, you might even watch it again and again and…

Creep (2004): The London Underground Just Got Worse

Written and directed by Christopher Smith this was Smith’s first full length  feature film. He went on to make Severance (2006), the vastly superior Triangle (2009) and Black Death (2010) and he is currently directing a TV mini-series Labyrinth (2012). Starring Franka Potente –  Run Lola Run ,  The Bourne Identity . Given that the premise of the film, getting locked in the London Underground after hours, is not actually possible; it’s a good film nonetheless.

The film opened to a pretty lukewarm reception. The reviews were mostly mixed with  a tendency for most of them to be negative. Considering that the film actually accomplishes what it set out to do, scare the crap out of the audience, I feel that the poor reception was unwarranted. Franka Potente really sells the film. Her portrayal as the protagonist of the film is just what you would expect from this accomplished actress. I don’t know how Smith managed to get her for his film, but hat’s off to him for casting her.

The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows: Girl sets out to meet George Clooney. She gets a bit wasted at the party she’s attending and winds up falling asleep on the Underground while on her way to meet George. A lecherous workmate tries to rape her. He is gorily dispatched by some unseen person. Girl spends most of the film trying to get out of the Underground, getting captured by the maniac killer and then trying to  not get killed by same. She escapes with the help of an underground maintenance worker. He is then killed while trying to defend the girl. She is the last [wo]man standing and defeats the killer. The subway opens up for the morning trade and she gets a hand out from a passer by who thinks she is a beggar.

I have of course left out the “backstory” of the maniac killer who haunts the underground. All said, it is a pretty good one. His name is Craig and he was kept in the underground in some sort of medical facility. He is Mentally Challenged. Somehow, even though the facility has closed, he has made his way back to the familiar surroundings. He now kills stragglers and other unfortunates in bizarre re-enactments of surgical procedures that he remembers from his past.

This is more than just your typical slasher film. Okay, you do have your villain or “boogey-man” who is damn near impossible to dispatch, but…It has a bit more going for it. Apart from the sexual predator workmate that attacks the girl (Kate) all the other character have been written well enough that we actually like them. As a consequence we actually care when they die. Most slasher films feature vapid miss-behaving teenagers who are so two dimensional they might as well be cardboard cut-outs. These teens also suffer lethal fates because they “break” the morality clause of their “Christian Contract,” you know, breaking certain basic Christian rules like:  pre-marital sex, smoking, drinking, drug taking, etc. Where a few of Craig’s victims are young, they are also not breaking the known rules. Although the two homeless people that Kate meets in the underground could fit that mould, but hey, they’re homeless, not some mindless vapid teen partying, drinking and trying to get laid.

The film does require you to suspend your disbelief, but if you cannot do that, then why are you watching a horror film?