An interesting spin in the crowded found footage movies, this time embarking on the tale of visiting a supposedly haunted basement in an abandoned building, okay not an original location, they can’t all be Eastern State Penitentiary. However, writer and director Kurtis Spieler (Sheep Skin ) delves into a paranormal and Satanism, and actually contains an interesting opening and close-out, which had an original title “The Unexplained Disappearance of Karla Marks”, but switched when achieving distribution from distributors Wild Eye Releasing and from the production company Invasive Image.
The first part of the movie seems as a low budget documentary, due to some of the backdrops and gives the backstory on Karla (Anne-Marie Mueschke) & Bryan Marks (Bryan Manley Davis) a wife and husband paranormal investigator team up checking out a location called The Devil’s Well another gateway to Hell. When the batteries suddenly drain on Karla’s camera, cue the eerie music and ghosts gathering energy, Bryan leaves his wife alone and runs back to his car for another one, all the viewers knew too well she’s vanished. After a 911 call and extensive search and no belief in the story, Bryan is arrested, however no evidence was found, so he was released under suspicion. As the interviews continue a story starts forming from their inclusion of Karla’s parents, other investigators and finally Bryan. Hence, the first act allows for introductions to present a natural story and sets the groundwork for the next rather abrupt transition. In addition, the first portion presented clearly has flaws showing as an independent investigation documentary than a smooth film production. One year later a new group of paranormal investigators reteam with Bryan and venture back to the location either to discover what happened or if Bryan really does know something. As the film progresses the common elements often found in the subgenre or technique (the jury still out on which it is, though choose both, a subgenre revolving a technique), shaky camera, static, freeze frames, and multiple handheld cameras. While the jump scares likely will not affect the seasoned horror fans, the filmmakers work to add a creep factor, though sadly still playing it safe. There’s a point when everyone involved including the viewers start to believe that Bryan is hiding truths, perhaps in fear what others likely to think or increasingly guilty or if all big publicity stunt. Needless to say, the final 20-minutes brings an interesting conclusion and welcomes one to take the plunge into the door, portal or gateway for an escape from reality.
As for the phrase ‘Gateway to Hell’ so often used, in fact, a volcano erupting was once considered Hell’s Eruption, in terms of horror movies it’s a commonplace and referred to ‘portal to hell’ from Demon House (2018) to Amityville 3-D (1983); The Sentinel (1977); of course, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond and the infamous box in the Hellraiser films.
While, the movie doesn’t move too far past the common clichés used in horror, such as the camera issues and location and common bickering between season paranormal investors. It often exposes the so-called lack of leadership and abandoning the strong Christian faith, which appears sometimes as secular backlash, though this critic discredits that last one. The Devil’s Well delivers a refreshing supply of believable actors, especially in the interviewing segment. However, once more when entering the building, a major mistake occurs, forgetting to allow the place speak volumes, in real estate the phrase “location, location, location” drives home a point to use it to one’s advantage from chills, thrills and scares.
I think the horror fans have likely seen thousands of variations of this storyline, not necessary a bad thing, but in the found footage realm, please strive for a more interesting location and make sure the demons or ghosts do more ruthless and obscene actions. Buck the trends, and go into another level of twisted horror, mix it around more often, while not Grave Encounters (2011) it allows a final creepy conclusion, especially for the Found Footage Fans.
- Hell is just below the surface
IMDb Rating: 3.9/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.0/10