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Review: Dwellers: The Curse of Pastor Stokes (2020)

One can’t accuse writer/director DeShon Hardy (The Lake on Clinton Road) of taking his time getting to the point. The very first scene in Dwellers: The Curse of Pastor Stokes sees Pastor Stokes (Sean A Kaufman, Maturing Youth) asking the ailing Bishop Taylor (Alan Bendich, Somnium, The Brawler) for help. Help dealing with demonic entities.

It seems the pastor’s church is infested with dwellers. What are dwellers, you ask? They’re the demons that leave a person when they stop fighting them and no longer believe in religion. They lurk in the church waiting to find a new victim. Sounds a bit off to me, but that’s what Pastor Stokes is up against.

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The first half of the film takes the form of Pastor Stokes studying an incident, and we see it play out. The stories are reasonably effective, but the episodic way they’re presented stops Dwellers from building any real atmosphere. And while I applaud the director’s commitment to giving us eye candy, he does push believability at times. I mean, I’ve never seen a babysitter showing that much ass cheek that in a film that wasn’t porn.

At about the halfway mark, the demons come after our hero in a burst of CGI smoke and colour. Dwellers switches gears here as Stokes and Ali (Stan J. Adams) one of the church’s deacons take on the evil face to face and hand to hand. Trading the creepier goings-on for a more action-oriented approach didn’t really work for me, though.

One thing that did work for me though was the film’s lack of extraneous drama and subplots. Even the business with the toll this is taking on Stoke’s wife Jaclyn (Tina Krause, When Death Calls, Bloody Nun 2: The Curse) eventually plays into the main thread. I wish more films could keep their scripts this focused.

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If it had been similarly focused on what kind of film it wanted to be, Dwellers could have been an impressive film. Instead, it’s enjoyable and certainly worth a watch, but ultimately forgettable one that isn’t sure if it wants to go for scares or be an action/horror film.

Dwellers: The Curse of Pastor Stokes is available to stream from Gravitas Ventures. You can check its website and Facebook page for more details.

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