Paul (Thom Murray) is a writer. His next book concerns Don Bradley (Don Brandon), a deceased artist and serial killer. As he digs into Don’s life we see what happened and the influence of Baal (Eric Wolfgang Nelson, Float Trip) in them. And it begins to spill over into Paul’s life.
He begins to hear and see strange things in the house. There are strange phone calls asking for Don. Actually, the fact there’s a functioning landline in the house is even stranger than the idea of ghosts. Are they real, or the results of battles with his own inner demons.
Filmed in St. Louis as THE TEMPTER, (both the screener I saw and its trailer still carry that title), DEAL WITH THE DEVIL is an interesting attempt at psychological horror on a very low budget. Writer/director Benjamin Thomas spikes a plot full of familiar situations with some interesting twists to maintain viewer interest.
He especially does a good job of raising questions as to whether Baal is actually real or a figment of Don’s fractured mind. Certainly, his financial situation and Susan (Camille Marolf), his shrew of a wife could drive a man over the edge. Paul has his own issues, early on we see him wash prescription meds down with something from a hip flask. And there seems to always be a bottle near his keyboard.
Unfortunately, though the film suffers from a couple of serious flaws. Nelson is excellent as the manipulative Baal. The rest of the cast, however, range from good to horrible, cringingly horrible in a couple of cases. It’s also pretty tame for a film that has sex and murder baked into the plot. Thomas explained his reasons for keeping the killings blood-free in an interview around the time of the film’s premiere. It makes sense, but many genre fans will feel disappointed.
Overall DEAL WITH THE DEVIL is a decent first feature that’s watchable though nothing spectacular. It moves along well enough even if you’ll probably guess how it all ends.
Wild Eye Releasing will debut DEAL WITH THE DEVIL on October 31st.