April 22, 2019 I Trapped the Devil (Movie Review)
Family is hell but so are the holidays! Get ready for a meeting of two estranged brothers that is chock full of unhealthy levels of paranoia and doubt in I Trapped the Devil. This brand-new Horror offering arrives to select theatres as well as VOD on Friday, April 26, 2019, thanks to the good folks at IFC Midnight.
Generally it’s best not to drop by someone’s home uninvited, but it’s Christmastime and Matt (AJ Bowen: You’re Next 2011, Dead Night 2017) and Karen (Susan Burke: Margot Rourke and the Boys Club short 2012, Southbound 2015) have made their way through the snow to Matt’s estranged brother’s home. Upon arrival, it is abundantly clear that Steve (Scott Poythress: Homeland series, The Resident series) is less than thrilled to see his brother, and he immediately warns the couple to leave.
When Matt and his wife opt to ignore caution and stay on for the duration anyway, the situation quickly devolves. Clearly, Steve is suffering from mental health issues, the least of which is paranoia — but is he dangerous? Furthermore, what’s going on inside the house? There are crosses on many of the walls, all the windows are papered over, the TV seems to have a mind of its own, and there’s a loaded gun lying around upstairs. Of course, none of this can quite prepare anyone for coup de grâce: there is a man locked up in the basement, a man whom Steve claims is the devil himself. With the situation rapidly spiraling downward, Matt will have to decide if his brother should be trusted and, more importantly, is it safe to grant the prisoner his freedom or has something truly evil conjured itself into the form of a man?
Clocking in at 83 minutes, I Trapped the Devil marks the debut of exceptionally-talented Writer/Director Josh Lobo, who previously worked in the Art Department on 2017’s Dave Made a Maze. The film also features the talents of Rowan Russell (Modern Family series, Still Hungry short 2017); John Marrott (Crazy/Beautiful 2001, NCIS series); Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil 2009, Insidious: Chapter 2 2013); and Chris Sullivan (Stranger Things series, This Is Us series).
Billed as a Horror film, to be quite honest, I Trapped the Devil reads more like a slow burn Thriller. In fact, while the film is beautifully realized, visually speaking, its script moves sluggishly and provides very little pay-off to viewers in its conclusion. In the very loosest sense, this makes I Trapped the Devil similar to recent hits such as 2018’s Hereditary, in that, it is likely to heavily polarize its viewers: some will love this slow burn, heavily veiled take on Horror, while others will find it too slow and too much work to reach an unsatisfying denouement.
Despite this, I Trapped the Devil is wonderfully done, visually and artistically speaking. Its original score by Ben Lovett (The Signal 2007, The Ritual 2017) is absolutely brilliant, and will have viewers’ hearts racing in anticipation. Likewise, the film’s cinematography by Bryce Holden (Grasp short 2013, The Manicurist short 2018) is wonderfully moody and dark, often with the actors appearing heavily shadowed or entirely bathed in red lighting. Holden effectively creates a mood that is dark and devilish, one that bolsters the viewer’s experience. Considering that this is also a directorial debut for Lobo, it’s a definite sign of exceptional things to come from this brand-new filmmaker.
The acting too is wonderfully done here. Poythress leads the way as the troubled Steve, and he effectively communicates the tension, anguish and fear inherent in his character’s situation. Whatever the reality, Steve believes very firmly that he has the devil trapped in his basement. When he begs his brother to believe in him, the audience is hit right in those pesky feels; as we all want our families to believe in us. Bowen is equally strong in his role of Matt, a highly conflicted brother who doesn’t know what to believe and how to help. He’s not a forceful character, more a caretaking type thrust into the entirely wrong situation, but that’s what gives Matt his strength and Bowen portrays the subtleties of the role perfectly.
It’s hard to properly summarize I Trapped the Devil without giving too much away, but we will say this: much like god, the devil might be an entirely different entity to each individual. What if the devil you know is not the same as the devil that haunts your neighbor’s nightmares? Let’s be honest, you’re going to have to invest yourself in I Trapped the Devil and pay close attention to the minute details, or you’re likely to walk away entirely confused and lacking in answers.
A maelstrom of paranoia and doubt, fear and faith, I Trapped the Devil truly defies any simple explanation or summarization; and some will cherish this while others will be left scratching their heads. Riding the fence but definitely intrigued, Cryptic Rock give I Trapped the Devil 4 of 5 stars.