MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
There’s a lot to enjoy about The Devil’s Business. It might not be groundbreaking but nevertheless feels bold and contains a clear vision brought to the big screen on a shoestring budget and a single location. It’s often dramatic and at times feels like theatre, with two strong characters at its core.
The Devil’s Business stars Billy Clarke as Pinner, no doubt a reference to Harold Pinter who Director Sean Hogan claims as a strong influence on his work. Pinner is an experienced hitman working for a man called Bruno (Harry Miller) and is taking the young, nervous Cully (Jack Gordon) out on his first mission as they camp out in man’s home as they await his return from the opera, before his execution. When they discover a devil-worshipping garden shed, they quickly discover the job might be a lot darker than they first imagined.
It’s a very talky piece of horror, which for long period of times feels like it would work equally well on stage. The film contains a 10 minute monologue which Hogan admits was a gamble but pulls Billy Clarke pulls it off with strength. The use of lighting on Clarke’s face is terrific and really adds to the sinister ambiance, twisting and contorting his features. At first I wasn’t particualrly convinced with co-star Jack Gordon, but as the film went on his slight unease seemed more intentional and actually works to his advantage and adds to the character’s vulnerability. It is very much a two-hander for the most part and the added comedy between the two leads gives the story something really tangible. There’s a really solid rapport created between the characters making them sympathetic despite their murky work-life.
The film’s main problem lies in when it moves away from the ambiance and unfortunately the supernatural reveals are rather underwhelming, including something that’s clearly meant to terrify but instead looks a little bit too Doctor Who and lets down a lot of the good drama that came before. Kill List provides a very obvious comparison (or companion piece) and the director understandably admits feeling trepidation when he first heard of the project. But the dialogue is actually sharper and narratively it isn’t such a sloppy mess even if I have certain problems with the ending. The Devil’s Business at least always knows what it’s doing and the incredibly low budget doesn’t particularly hinder the film and you’ve got to marvel at the shooting time of merely 9 days. Overall, some fantastically scripted drama with a wonderful atmosphere but just a shame the horror couldn’t haven’t lived up to its dramatic foundation.
Sean Hogan was still working on Little Deaths during the production of The Devil’s Business, another independent horror which I look forward to seeing later this weekend at the Mayhem Festival.
Review by David Rank