DVD Review: Devils Rock

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MSRP 2498
RATED Unrated
STUDIOEntertainment One
• Full Length Commentary by Director Paul Campion
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• VFX Breakdown
• Extended Scenes
• Alternate Multi-cam Takes
• Outtakes

The Pitch

Set in the Channel Islands on the eve of D Day,two Kiwi commandos, sent to destroy German gun emplacements to distract Hitler’s forces away from Normandy, discover a Nazi occult plot to unleash demonic forces to win the war.

The Humans

Director Paul Campion Starring Craig Hall, Matthew Sunderland, Gina Varela Special Effects by Weta

The Nutshell

A B-budget horror film that works within its budget with a small cast, limited scene locations and decent effects and gore provided by Weta.

A creepy version of an the old lady who lived in a shoe

The Lowdown

Horror films are a dime a dozen. Their production value normally matches that, and the idea of scaring someone has been replaced by the more common term “Torture Porn”. Saw,Hostel and Final Destination changed the status quo as to what defines a horror film for the general public, and if it’s not “Torture Porn”, it’s a found footage film, because we need more Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside sequels. I also hear slashers are not fun anymore, even though I’m sure someone still likes them.

The Devils Rock doesn’t fit into any of these categories. It is a refreshing flashback to a lot of the early Lovecraft films such as From Beyond or Castle Freak. Like those Lovecraft films, they didn’t have much of a budget, but they worked with what they had. If you know about production values you can easily see the things that kept the cost of The Devil’s Rock down.

The story is the best part. Many historians have linked Hitler to the study of the dark arts, and this expands on that. It begins as a tactical two man strike on a Nazi base to make way for the D-Day assault, and quickly turns from WWII espionage to demonology and witchcraft. Throw in a scantily clad women and some ethical dilemmas and you wind up with a unique period horror story.

A movie with sexy nazi demons, what can go wrong?

With the exception of the bookend scenes, the entire film takes place within the confines of a phallic looking Nazi compound. To expand the money saving techniques further, the majority of time within the compound takes place in 2 rooms with some shots of some stairs in between. This enabled the filmmakers to keep the location costs down, reuse the lighting with making tweaks and cheaply define the era of story (June 5, 1944 the day before D-Day) by not having to shut down streets or dress a lot of extras. The cast is a minimum of 7 people if you include the scene during the end credits, and 4 actors names are listed before the title shows up, due to this being their tale. Personally, I would have only listed 3 of them, but I guess they felt compelled to make everything equal. This movie could be used as a template to teach young filmmakers how to keep a budget down.

The film works very well for the most part within its budget. It has great sound mastering, which is something normally overlooked on shoestring budgets. The lighting work was more than adequate with the exception of the girl’s room, which sometimes was too black without enough mid-tone. The camera work left something to be desired, but the simple shots that were filmed were normally framed well, using very basic and safe shots for the most part.

This guy asked for seconds at the dinner table

This movie, even though a horror film, could easily be presented as a play. With a few exceptions of seeing a monster, most of the movie involves the interaction between a few of the characters. I had never seen the actors before, but they all were good enough to keep the movie interesting throughout. Craig Hill breathes a commanding presence the entire time, never letting you forget that when he isn’t in charge, he is still the main character. Matthew Sunderland plays the evil Nazi villain, reminiscent of a young Stellan Skarsgard in looks. The girl doesn’t show up until later into the film, but Gina Varela does a nice job in her versatile part.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, and have tried to present as much as I could about the benefits of the film. If you like horror movies, and you don’t mind something that doesn’t move super fast, this movie isn’t bad. The first half an hour was extremely gripping and was good at building the intensity as we find out what is going on. As with many horror movies that have a limited, it does suffer from not having enough wow factor in the main creature. While most of the effects are superbly done, there just weren’t enough moving effects in general and the effects at the end were minimalist at best. Again, this film could be done as a play due to most of the effects being stationary, and the non-static effects were simple and infrequent. This is a modern film that does an awesome tribute to a lot of the horror films mentioned in the collecting vhs column.

Is that spaghetti I see?

The Package

The Devil’s Rock DVD has at least 3 hours of special features not including the commentary with director Paul Campion. Unfortunately these features are not presented in the most entertaining way, making them an exercise just to watch. The extended scenes are presented as one clip, with just a few scenes being told in a row. The outtakes were presented like the extended scenes, but appeared to be a scene told the same way multiple times, and then off to another. There is not commentary and not representative of what normally constitutes outtakes. The Multi Cam, was interested for about 2 minutes at they showed two continuous shots using different focal lenses as well as the final product and a tri window presentation again without any lead in or commentary but with complete silence. The VFX Breakdown winds up silent again, and only extended a few of the scenes by a minimal amount of time. While The Devil’s Rock has a lot a special features, most of them are not worth your time unless you are using them to diagnose the production of the film.

I think he watched the alternate multi-cam takes

The cover art on the box is eye catching, but the back cover presents the low budget product in it’s full glory. If I were looking just at that box in a Best Buy, I don’t believe I would ever venture any further, though you could do worse with a lot of DVD’s that look a lot better.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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