Directed by: Greg A. Sager
I’m not much of a fan of possessed chick films, as they often tend to become way too silly, or perhaps it would be better to say that they lack in presenting a believable shift from an ordinary to an unordinary world. I unfortunately find it to be a lazy genre, which stays overtly close to convention and rarely ventures out of the box. As most sub-genres and flavour of the week niches, the outlet is of varied quality, with some highlights, and some low marks, but personally I find the sub-genre predominantly stale. Devil Seed may not be all that original; although it does have some good moments that make it somewhat stand out amongst the rest of the clutter.
Without messing around the movie plays straight into the classic demonic / Satan possession film traits – young prudish woman becomes a vessel for evil forces following an intoxicated visit to a gypsy tarot reader – who they drunkenly insult. Evils forces are unleashed visualized through nightmare rock-video aesthetics…something that oddly never reoccurs – and then her world starts to crumble as the demons successively take over her body… Somebody call a priest and save her soul!
It all starts with a tone setting imagery of priest and writhing woman cursing her way thorough an exorcism, as the credits blast by, before plunging into generic geekery as college student Alex [Michelle Argyris] returns back to her new apartment that she’s to share with friends Jessica [Shantelle Canzanese] and Breanne [Vanessa Broze]. The first generic nudity is on display within the first five minutes, Alex boyfriend Brian [Kevin Jake Walker] makes an appearance and all seems hunky-dory…classic turf; now just wait for the scares to start hammering down.
But despair not; this generic tomfoolery is what establishes characters, the complexity in the structure of the constellation of friends’… hostility, relations, and infidelity. You learn a lot more about this bunch in these first five minutes than the average horror movie, and I really like the way director / writer, Greg A. Sager, establishes those we need to root for and those we can see as cannon fodder early on in the piece. Not forgetting that the dirty little secret we are in on really gives an interesting intrigue to all the scenes with the affected parts from that moment on.
Classic stuff like over acting… strange scratches on the thighs… weird symbols in her schoolbooks… creepy visions… am I loosing my mind questions… doors that creak in the dark… foul language, and silly overdubbed possessed voices… and in all honesty it get’s kind of annoying. Apart from alienating me with some at times really poor acting, what I find Devil Seed doing, is provoking me with some weak ass moments, then taking these moments and leading them to great ones. A really sappy research scene lands in images of Annelise Michel pre and post supposed possession by no less than six demons… and who the movies Annelise Michel: The Exorcist Tapes 2011, The Exorcism of Emily Rose 2005, and the superior Requiem 2006. I take this as sign of Sager doing his research correct and knowing what path to take in this journey.
Let’s shift focus. The pros of this film are the jump scares. Phew; I don’t know when demonic possession flick jump scares where as intense as this. When Sager starts off one classic jump scare moment, he just keeps pushing on, and frequently nails more jump scares into the same scene. Kind of like multi layered scare, which just keep kicking. A Chinese cracker of intense jump scares. It’s really effective and as there’s no tension release, only blam, blam, blam, it definitely winds the audience up. At the end of the day this is a vital reason for why we seek out horror related movies, we want to be scared, and Devil Seed really hammers the frights down solid.
There’s some good storytelling and audience manipulation in setting up the Alex character and guiding the audience into feeling empathetic towards her. By letting the audience in on the deceit of her boyfriend, there’s an emotional recognition - from the times we have felt deceived or let down by a love one – between the audience and Alex. This is a good way to help the audience feel more for the otherwise pretty shallow character, oh and to show that’ she’s still a virgin without actually having that awkward dialogue. Instead we have Breanne in post coital pillow talk ask why Brian doesn’t just leave “that little virgin Alex”. He tries to hold some façade but this comes crushing to the ground when the demon pushes him away as he’s trying to get into Alex pants… Instead of accepting the incident as proof of Alex possession, he takes it as a major cock-block and abandons her there and then. As said, her allies are leaving her one by one… and the audience become more and more empathetic to this poor girl with her solid values, who after turning down her boyfriend in a gentle manner is raped by the devil, again.
Oh, and if I where a filmmaker making a flick about the devil raping some top-notch hottie – which he always does, the devil has great taste in women - I’d at least make sure that her pants get torn off. Unlike the possessed lesbian act between Alex and Jessie - brief but it’s there, the demonic rape is nodded at but sort of kept off-camera. Let’s just say that The Entity 1982 came to mind, but with the clothes still on. Luckily there are some great special effects courtesy of Anthony Veilleux, who’s been part of crew’s on some pretty damned good movies. Veilleux definitely knows his stuff and the cuts, scars, burns and air gropes really get the job done.
There’s a small Subplot with the parent, Father Madison [Micheal G. Wilmot] and son [Wayne Conroy] who have grown apart, which never really develops into anything else than dialogue. Madison is the priest from the opening montage, and he’s been down this road before, even if he’s reluctant to perform one last Exorcism. His backstory connects in to the introduction montage – as the demon recognizes, and taunts Father Madison in a way that indicates that they know each other. Surprisingly, in all it’s convention, this last act is what becomes something of a booster for the movie, as it really picks up here and I find myself liking the movie more and more for ever minute. If only Sager had worked Father Madison into the plot earlier and built that character arc more, he could have come out with a tale of one man loosing his faith, serving time in prison, living a life of remorse only to come back out of hiding for one last round, re connecting with his faith and redeem himself. But that’s a completely different story, and at by the end of the movie, Devil Seed actually manages to take genre convention and warp it somewhat, by partially pushing the accustomed traits into places I’ve not seen it go before!
I predict Devil Seed sands a risk of being lost amongst the clutter of similar flicks, as it really doesn’t bring all that much innovation with it, until that last act goodness. Hopefully this piece doesn’t scare you off, but instead evokes some interest as Devil Seed has a couple of good tricks up it’s sleeve, and impressive, intense, nerve wrecking jump scares, that might make you pee your pants. Grab your girlfriend (or boyfriend), check out the movie and enjoy some classic generic demonic possession before your date becomes a portal to the end of the mankind.
Devil Seed is set to be released by NjutaFilms later this year.