Film: The Devil’s Rock
UK Release date: 11th July 2011
Running time: 86 mins
Director: Paul Campion
Starring: Craig Hall, Matthew Sunderland, Gina Varela, Karlos Drinkwater
Country: New Zealand
First time director Paul Campion is best known for his work as a visual effects artist on classic trilogies Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as the outstanding Sin City and Greek legends dud Clash of the Titans. But has Campion got what it takes to step up a level or will The Devil’s Rock be bowed down beneath a burden akin to Greek Titan Atlas after rebelling against Zeus?
It’s the eve of D-Day and allied commandos are carrying out sabotage raids on the German occupied Channel Islands to draw attention away from Normandy.
On Forau Island, two New Zealand comrades, Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) have been sent to destroy gun replacements, but after negotiating a tricky route to their target a woman’s screams lure them into an isolated fortress.
It’s here they discover the attractive female Helene (Gina Varela), held captive by rusty chains, surrounded by mutilated bodies, and after resistance from Colonel Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland), Grogan has to decide whether he’ll help the girl escape the island or stop a Nazi occult plot to unleash demonic forces in order to win the war…
He said: Campion’s The Devil’s Rock is an engaging, neatly constructed horror whose conventionality is never endangered by the supernatural violence it could depict – dismembered bodies may be strewn across the blood-stained floors, while others (one in particular has a rifle rammed down its throat) are slumped across the walls coated in vital fluid, but for the most part the horrors are hidden away like the devil herself.
She said: The Devil’s Rock starts promisingly enough, with two strong leads, an interesting premise and a slow burning sense of dread. Paul Campion keeps the characters confined to small dark spaces, helping to create a suspenseful atmosphere that breathes menace.
He said: Sunderland as the sly Colonel Meyer is the standout, with his “we’re both in the same shit” persona managing to convince Hall’s Grogan that it’s best if they stick together. The Grogan character is let down by his indecisiveness - all too often it gets him into far too much trouble, and his inability to think rationally questions how he has been so well-rewarded career-wise, let alone allowed him to not get dead.
She said: Commonplace in movies that deal with the occult, Nazi’s just can’t seem to leave it alone, not even bad experiences in Hellboy and Indiana Jones have done enough to distract them.
He said: The opening, which sees Grogan and comrade Sergeant Tane (a sadly underused Karlos Drinkwater) looking to destroy gun replacements, impresses with its washed-out visuals and tense plotting fused with deliciously entertaining dialogue that adds artful backstory to a gripping preamble.
She said: The Devil’s Rock takes a downward turn - quite literally - as soon as we meet Helene. It’s clear to anyone watching that she isn’t the girl she claims to be, only Grogan seems slow on the uptake. Even when she turns a nasty shade of red, Grogan takes an eternity to make up his mind. Who do you trust more, a She-Devil or a Nazi soldier?
He said: Campion tries his best to restore some of its early protocol with Meyer delivering a few lines that throw us back on track; the majority of viewers hopefully convinced by now that the devil can rip its victim apart by becoming the someone they thought was the love of their life, but Grogan will still have you screaming at the screen for his inability to trust a Nazi over his dead wife, no matter how many times Meyer utters “fairytale bullshit”.
She said: The relationship between Grogan and Meyer is both enthralling and complicated. Grogan may think he has the upper hand when it comes to moral code and values, but the final act reveals that the definition of truth can be cloudy at best. Grogan’s reluctance is explained away by a turn of events that find us questioning the difference between right and wrong, between hero and villain.
He said: You’ll still be questioning whether Grogan is just happy to hear his slaughtered spouse’s voice after all these years though, but to be fair, she sounds a hell of a lot better than the camp, almost laughable powers of articulation of the real villain of the piece – a tranny-she-devil that disappoints more than it delivers.
She said: In attempting to make his villain sound demonic, Campion has dropped the ball big time, creating a bad girl that lacks any kind of credibility. Helene’s true form is hilariously misjudged.
He said: Luckily, the final act finally reawakens along with one of the diseased in a genuinely hilarious moment of madness, even if the zombie comes across more drunk than dangerous, and a fine act of betrayal once again disguises Grogan’s implausible anguish.
She said: The final moments give food for thought, but after an impressive opening The Devil’s Rock loses its way in the dark.
He said: Maybe Campion’s script (co-written with Paul Finch) would’ve been more provocative if he had worked as a visual effects artist on The Exorcist rather than Eragon. Having said that, the rivetingly repellent effects on show are reason enough to watch.
She said: The Devil’s Rock struggles to find its feet under an overly talky midsection. A promising first act and strong performances give way to comical demons and lightweight chills, resulting in a far from satisfying dance with the Devil in the pale moon light.
He said: Despite a devil that would certainly prefer to wear Prada, The Devil’s Rock is a promising start for first time director Paul Campion. This could do for Campion what Dog Soldiers did for Marshall.