Being in nature surrounded by pure untouched beauty has a way of bringing out the most primal parts of people. Running for safety to try and survive is also a primal instinct. The woods are a natural wonder, but they become a frightening labyrinth when danger approaches. These thoughts in mind comes Devil’s Path; a film where all things primal ends up back in nature. Written and directed by Matthew Montgomery (Socket 2007, OstrichLand 2013), the LGBTQ Psychological Thriller makes it way to North American audiences on DVD as well as VOD as of Tuesday, March 5, 2019 thanks to Breaking Glass Pictures.
So what is Devil’s Path? Devil’s Path is a well known area in a wilderness park where gay men go cruising for anonymous sex. Noah (Stephen Twardokus: An American Ghost Story 2012, Let Me See Your Eyes 2014) claims, “The woods has always been where I felt most comfortable…safe.” He walks around the main trails like a wounded duck looking for the water. He meets Patrick (JD Scalzo: The Gay Husbands of San Francisco 2017, The Broken Rose 2018) at one of the benches. Noah strikes up an awkward conversation using a deck of tarot cards as his ice breaker. The two soon begin to walk toward the Devil’s Path but are stopped by Park Ranger Tom (Steve Callahan: Nine Lives 2004, Role/Play 2010). Ranger Tom warns the men that the path is closed because there are a few missing hikers. He lets them know they need to be out of the woods before dark because help will not be available until sunrise.
Undeterred, Patrick continues on and urges Noah to do the same. The two could not be more different. Patrick is looking for a quick romp, but Noah continues to wax poetic about soulmates and love. Patrick decides to part ways with Noah, but this will not happen. Away from Patrick, Noah has been attacked and is bleeding. He tells Patrick that two men are chasing him attempting to finish the deed. Now Patrick is stuck with Noah as they desperately try to navigate the ever darkening woods to escape from their two pursuers who clearly want to do them harm. The more time the duo spend together the more intense the situation becomes.
Everyone has their own agendas. Places in nature – like the vast woods – have a habit of unearthing the darkest secrets. Will either of them walk out of nature cleansed and alive? Or like the missing before them will the woods/nature take and keep them hidden and buried never to be unearthed again?
As mentioned, Devil’s Path is touted as an LBGTQ thriller. There are only a handful of characters present in the entire film with just two carrying the weight of it on their shoulders. While it does star two gay men, the writing is so well done that it did not really matter the gender, race, or ethnicity of the actors put in the role. As characters, both Noah and Patrick explode onscreen with complexities that only real people possess.
The fact that it could transcend casting stereotypes is a testament to Montgomery and Twardokus’ writing ability and understanding of the human condition. Just when the viewer thinks this writing duo does not have any more twists or shocking revelations to hand out, they continue to bombard the viewer with even more. This creates a film that without such strong writing, could have become monotonous as the scenery of the woods does not ever really change. It also allows for a broader audience other than just the LBGTQ community that will no doubt find the intelligence and twisted beauty captured in this film.
The film is heavy on dialogue as running to escape a sure death does not allow much other intrusions. That said, a well-written script can only carry a film so far. The wrong actors can make an otherwise brilliant film fall flat. This did not happen in this film. Twardokus’ Noah is very clearly a broken character. Even before he speaks, the viewer can pick up on the fact that something is not quite right about him. Scalzo’s Patrick seems to be full of confidence and well put together, but as events unfold the viewer realizes that he is just a man with a past like anyone else. Yes, the script comes alive on its own thanks to the expert writing, but the amazing casting also aides in sucking the viewer into this intricately woven tale of perception, instinct, and complexity.
Sex or love? Noah and Patrick are on the opposite sides of this argument. Though Noah is at a place where causal sex happens, he does not seem to fit in. He wants connections and his “soulmate” in his life. Throughout the ordeal all Noah seems to want to do is connect with Patrick to figure out what kind of person he really is. For Noah, sex and love seem to be connected. Sex cannot happen without love or at least a basic understanding of the person. Patrick is quite the opposite. Causal sex with strangers, “…makes me feel.” The two characters standing opposite of each other on this issue allows the viewer to better understand them. Noah is clearly a sensitive soul who has been broken at some point, but still needs to hold onto someone.
Patrick, on the other hand, was probably hurt and broken as well, but has chosen to bury everything and just live on a primal physical level. The two continue to bump heads about the topic because both think the other is being too judgmental. That is exactly the issue with most people who do not agree on a topic. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but differing opinions often find opposition and the need to “fix” what just might not be broken. As the film progresses and the viewer learns more about each man, the argument sex or love swings heavily on both sides. If the viewer is really paying attention there is no doubt the introspection will follow well after the credits roll.
Perspective is always different. No two people will ever fully see events or people in the same light. Information is always missing. The whole story often comes out well after events take place that cannot be undone. Devil’s Path explores a myriad of struggles that any person can fully relate to. With excellent writing and a strong two man lead cast behind it, Devil’s Path is a thrilling, deep introspective of the human condition. It is for these reasons Cryptic Rock give it 4 out of 5 stars.