{Movie Review} The Devil Below

We can compile a list of films that solely rely on jump scares to justify being a horror flick and successfully sailed by employing that tactic. But in a film, where not only is a coherent story woefully absent but also the parts where the viewer is expected to jump up terrified are cheap attempts at inducing fear, the trick fails, something that is more than obvious when you sit down to watch the Bradley Parker directed The Devil Below. 

The title of the film invokes all kinds of expectations but as we progress through the story, which seems to be a generic version of countless creature horror movies, one is left second-guessing their earlier opinion. 

The story of The Devil Below

The crux of The Devil Below starts in an abandoned Appalachian mining town, where the mining community known as Shookum Hills simply vanished into thin air sometime in the 1970s. The reason? An “environmental disaster” that somehow caused thousands of miners and their families to leave without their things, with their houses remaining open, and disappear without a clue while the mining site burned down to the ground. In fact, since the event, the entire town has been literally erased from existence- modern maps don’t include the route to the town as if it was never there in the first place. 

While the world has all but forgotten the town, researcher Darren (Adan Canto) is interested in its mysterious disappearance. He has multiple theories- may be the so-called disaster was in reality a big coverup of a man-made catastrophe or an untapped natural resource waiting to be discovered. Together with his crew, he hires expeditioner Arianne (Alicia Sanz) to find a way that leads them to the location of their query– Shookum Hills Mining site. 

But once they begin their research and open a well-locked hole, complete with electric grates, in the ground, science defies them as they literally discover hell. And just like every run-of-the-mill horror movie, one by one everyone starts dying, dragged away by a mysterious monster.

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

Even when they come face to face with the town’s “protectors” and their leader, Paul Schuttmann (Will Patton), the answers aren’t as forthcoming as one would expect. All everyone knows that they dug hell-holes to the core of Earth and unleashed a deadly monster that relishes in killing humans. And all they can do is ensure that what’s living below the ground never reaches the surface- something which the expedition party renders redundant with their arrival. 

An unoriginal monster shy about eating his prey on camera

The idea of something inhuman feasting on the innocent should have been enough to create terror in our hearts. But somehow, The Devil Below manages to rob its barely seen monster of what little fear it manages to generate. While the killings could have been a great way of creating horror, almost all the people who are killed are either dragged away or when we do get to see them murdered, it is through a blurry, far-away focus that really diminishes the overall effect of the moment.

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

It also doesn’t help that when we do get to look at these supposedly horrifying creature, their is nothing unique about them. At the most they appear as Alien derivatives.  

Bland characters

The film leans into its cliched characters. We have the overconfident so-called leader of our group, Darren. Shawn as the whining and scared member, the cocky Terry, the neutral Jamie, and the fearless and smart and true heroine of the story, Arianne. If you have seen as many horror films as I have, you already know who dies first and who survives. 

Barely any time is spent in building the characters and also the actors themselves appear to be unclear on what their own motivations may be. So, even when all the poorly compiled jump scares and the monsters ever-present poisonous claw do manage to raise the stakes a little higher, it is practically a chore to care what happens next. Much like the town itself, this movie risks disappearing into obscurity.

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