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Review: THE DEVIL’S MACHINE (2019)

Director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly have collaborated on a string of Scottish set and influenced films. Starting with the doomsday thriller White Out in 2011, their films switched genres to horror two years later with The Lord Of Tears. Now we have their most recent effort, The Devil’s Machine. Filmed as Automata, it has a plot that lies somewhere between Ken Russel and a cursed doll film.

The Devil’s Machine starts three hundred years ago. A group of soldiers taking something “over the border” to be destroyed are ambushed and their cargo carried off. In the present day, Dr. Brendan Cole (Jamie Scott Gordon, The Black Gloves, Bonejangles) is summoned to the estate of Baron Von Haugwitz (Jon Vangdal Aamaas).

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He claims to have found the legendary “Infernal Princess” an early automaton about which Cole has written about. Cole is skeptical, but can’t refuse an offer of one million pounds for his work. So he and his adult stepdaughter Rose (Victoria Lucie) move into the estate and begin their work.

As they do, we learn more about the automaton’s history. The General (Jonathan Hansler, Ripper Untold, The Haunting of Alcatraz) commissioned a Scottish engineer Alexander MacIntosh (Keith Robson) to create a mechanical replica of his daughter Talia (Alexandra Nicole Hulme, Kids vs Monsters). But after the girl goes missing, a series of murders occurs, with more than one finger being pointed at MacIntosh’s creation. A creation that vanished before it could be destroyed.

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Much of The Devil’s Machine consists of dreams, hallucinations and flashbacks. The script interweaves what is happening now with the events of three hundred years ago. And the attempts of whatever entity dwells in the house to manipulate the already strange relationship between Dr. Cole and Rose. How strange, you ask? When we first meet them, she’s trying on her late mother’s dresses for his approval. That strange.

Brewster and Daly take what could have been a fairly routine haunted house film and add loads of Argento styled lighting, distinctly deviant relationships and feminist subtext about the mistreatment of women. Thankfully, they don’t let The Devil’s Machine become an overdone message film. The result is a very stylish looking film whose supernatural evil is built on a foundation of human evil.

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Visually impressive with some inspired imagery, The Devil’s Machine is a film that should make you uncomfortable as well as scare you. And that is the sign of a good horror movie.

The Devil’s Machine is available for streaming and on Blu Blu-rayRay from Hex Media’s website.

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