The Devil Below Review: Schlock and Awe

The Devil Below Review: Schlock and Awe

The Devil Below Review: Schlock and Awe

Somehow the Appalachian Mountains are an extremely popular place for various horror stories to take place, likely because the mountain range is a perfect spot for a number of stories to take place and because there are enough areas that are off the beaten path that can be used to play on the fears of those that don’t understand the area. But in a horror movie such as The Devil Below one can’t help but think that it’s still entirely possible to make a movie that’s filled with bad decisions since that’s about that this is. When four individuals and their guide make their way into the wilderness under the guise of researchers attempting to find out why there are still coal fires burning in the mines of Shookum Hills after so long, they stumble upon something that should have been, by all rights, kept secret since it’s far deadlier than a coal fire, especially when one considers that the remaining townsfolk are still fighting after so long. The thing about this strange plague though is that it caused the residents to at least try to erase any mention of the place from public record and to hide the roads leading into the town to keep people out. But as you can guess, that just doesn’t happen since the researchers, like every good tourist, will find a way around the safeguards that were put in place, for their safety no less. 

The best part of this entire movie is Will Patton since in the first few minutes of the movie he suffers an attack from the strange creatures that inhabit the depths beneath the coal mines, and he loses his son as well. Turning into a scarred, grizzled old man almost overnight he takes to fighting the creatures, and the audience learns further into the movie the townsfolk have taken to studying them as much as they can, and know at least a few things about them. Granted, this is after the researchers have discovered the abandoned mine, unwisely cut free a section of electrified mesh that was covering a large, gaping hole that was keeping the creatures from rising through it and had already lost one of their own after trying to explore the cavern system beneath. This is also after one of the townsfolk, when leaning against another grating over another opening deeper in the forest, was speared through the side of the head. In other words, the creatures below had already claimed a couple of victims by the time we get to learn anything about them, such as the fact that they’re blind and have to ‘sound out’ their pretty. This is another case when something attracted by sound would appear to be kind of ridiculous simply because the smallest sound feels as though it should be likely to send them into a frenzy as they try to reach the thing causing the noise. The only argument for that would be that above ground, sounds don’t echo as much, meaning it might be harder to lock on to any single noise. 

Near the end the realization that the researchers were there for other purposes kind of becomes less than important since survival is about the only thing that needs to be tended to, especially when it’s discovered that the creatures have been feeding people to a much bigger creature that the guide kills by tossing a live grenade into its tubular ‘mouth’, thereby finding a way to escape as she and the final survivor make their way to an opening that they try to reach. While the final researcher sacrifices himself to keep the guide alive it’s kind of flat and doesn’t have a lot of gravitas to it, meaning that if there was a reason to be invested in the characters it might have meant a lot more. The movie definitely tries to get people to pay attention to certain characters, but it also tends to skip around and leaves the viewer hanging a bit without really becoming that invested in the movie as a whole. It doesn’t have a lot of gore to it as one might imagine, and it wouldn’t even help if it did since this feels more like something an aspiring film student might come up with for a final project if they had a big enough budget. When Will Patton is the biggest name on your roster, no offense to Patton, it’s kind of assumed that you’re either just starting out as a director or you have yet to gain the faith of any major talent or studio. Bradley Parker was the director of The Chernobyl Diaries, which made its budget back in a big way, so he’s not a complete newbie, which makes this movie a bit of a surprise since it has a lot of potential, but it almost feels as though the movie was pieced together with a great deal of compromise and not enough edge. 

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