The Canadian horror flick, The Devil's Mile, had its World Premiere at Fantasia Saturday night. It is the feature debut of long-time screenwriter and Rue Morgue magazine contributor Joseph O'Brien.
Three kidnappers, Toby, Cally and Jackie, take a detour to deliver their hostages - two teenage girls - to their powerful employer, Mr. Arkadi. The trip is taking longer than they expected and a couple of complications with the kidnappings only escalate the frustrations everyone feels. Then one of the girls is killed during an escape attempt and an easy kidnapping job turns into a white-knuckled ride into horror and fear. Down The Devil's Mile.
Joseph O'Brien's feature debut is an entertaining crime-horror with splashes of Lovecraftian and J-horror tropes. And while one may wonder how on earth that even works, the elements that O'Brien borrows from those other two genres compliment each other and do not detract from the core story. The Devil's Mile is a scary stretch of road. Adding other genres' scary elements to it will only help make it scarier.
While it is nice that O'Brien landed David Hayter as his lead male - an actor known more so for his voice work in video games and screenplay work on the first two X-Men films - it is much nicer to watch a horror film focusing primarily on its female characters. The relationship between Cally and Jackie takes over the film as events unravel. We learn that they met 'on the inside' and that Cally brought Jackie on board. While Cally is not especially weak, the younger Jackie finds herself taking over their situation and trying to find a way off this road from Hell.
The visual elements of the film are fantastic. Though some of the post effects were telling, I felt they still gave an other-worldly feel to their surroundings. The makeup and creature effects are great. O'Brien's screenplay is laced with subtle humor, just enough for some to diffuse the tension in the room. The dialogue is natural and can be snappy at times. The exchange between Toby and The Caretaker of the last service station on the road over his only road map is notably good. There are plenty of tense and scary moments throughout the film. Nothing that I would call a jump scare, per se, and for that I am glad. O'Brien displays the right amount of patience to get the right amount of tension out of his audience
There are still many surprises left in The Devil's Mile and they should be left for the viewing experience. Once the true nature of The Devil's Mile is revealed, do you keep on going straight ahead? Or, do you turn around and try to get back to where you came from?
Fun time: Seeing staff of Rue Morgue magazine as goons in the flashback yard scene.
The Devil's Mile is being distributed in Canada and the U.S. by Phase 4 Films on VOD and DVD on August 12.
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