Of the Devil sees actor Kelton Jones (Miranda Veil, Escape from Area 51) return to the directors’ chair five years after helming his disturbing first feature, Dry Blood. This time around he’s working from a script he wrote based on an idea by James Cullen Bressack (Tales from the Other Side, Bethany).
The film opens in the basement of a nightclub. A group of devil worshippers slice open a young woman and remove something that looks like a shark’s tooth-shaped cocoon from her body. In the next scene, the item is hidden in the corner of a fence. A bright blue butterfly of the species CGIus Obvious flutters around it and a young boy named Alex (Lucas Sequeira, In the Death Room) is playing on the other side of the fence.
The butterfly lands on the boy’s finger, and after a series of visions involving the cult we saw in the open scenes he collapses. His parents Ben (Jonathan Stoddard, Await the Dawn, Last Night on Earth) and Norma (Daniela Palavecino, The Fighter, Toro Loco: Bloodthirsty) rush him to the hospital where it’s discovered he’s suddenly developed an advanced case of brain cancer.
The script gets Of the Devil off to a fast start and by the film’s first ten minutes we’ve not only seen that we’ve also learned that Ben used to be a priest until he left to marry Norma, “The last time she went to a priest for comfort she married him”. And that Alex is talking to friends nobody else can see.
Just as I was beginning to think Of the Devil was going to be a totally generic affair, Jones pulls off a creepy sequence involving Norma putting a crucifix on the wall and what appears to be Jesus in the hall behind her. And that’s what we can expect from the rest of the film, a rather familiar plot punched up with some extremely creepy, and occasionally bloody, visuals.
And it is very familiar with the friendly neighbour (Eileen Dietz, Final Caller, The Exorcist) suggesting they visit a Mexican surgeon (Robert LaSardo, Project Skyquake, Death Count) who offers an unorthodox treatment for the boy’s condition. Since it turns out to be more of a ritual than a medical procedure that leaves Alex seemly dead before he miraculously returns to life, it’s no surprise when the boy develops possession issues and Ben has to find his faith again.
Jones handles all of this with a fairly steady hand and with enough visual flair to keep Of the Devil interesting even through the film’s slower moments. He’s given plenty of help from a cast of veterans that also includes Roslyn Gentle (Unborn, Prisoner: Cell Block H), Vernon Wells (Commando, Thor: God of Thunder), and Devanny Pinn (The Sunday Night Slaughter, Chase). Kelton makes a brief appearance as a police detective.
Unfortunately, some of that is undone by a rather weak performance by reality TV star Vicki Gunvalson (The Real Housewives of Orange County) as a doctor. Even more of a problem is Daniela Palavecino’s performance as Alex’s mother. This is her first English language film after a string of credits in her native Spanish and it shows. Acting in a second language can be extremely difficult and she may want to take some more classes before she attempts it again.
The effects are a bit of a mixed bag with a bit too much reliance on low-budget CGI and simple things such as crucifixes that move on their own accord. There are some decent practical makeup effects. I’m also not sure about the demon glimpsed briefly near the end of the film, it looked like a practical effect but it wasn’t on screen long enough for me to be sure.
Of the Devil is too familiar and predictable to reach the same level Dry Blood did, and I wish it had taken more chances with its basic idea. But Jones does give it enough creepy moments and visual impact to elevate it a bit above average.