I think it's time for the found-footage genre to go away for a while.
The Devil’s Doorway is a new low-budget horror movie that I’m guessing you probably haven’t heard of.
I’ve found that’s the case with a lot of IFC Midnight films, at least, as they tend to go rather under the radar for most mainstream audiences.
Sometimes, that’s not such a bad thing — Carnage Park is a movie that nobody in their right mind ever needs to watch, and King Cobra isn’t much better.
Sometimes, however, they can produce something that’s really quite good — Personal Shopper is one of the more unique supernatural films I’ve seen, I really dug Pyewacket earlier this year and The Autopsy of Jane Doe is honestly one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the past decade.
While The Devil’s Doorway has all the potential in the world to land in that latter category, it, unfortunately, finds itself in the former.
Set in 1960’s Ireland, I believe, The Devil’s Doorway revolves around two priest — Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and Father John (Ciaran Flynn) who are sent to a nunnery out in the middle of nowhere.
This isn’t just a normal nunnery, as it’s hidden from the rest of the world for good reason.
This nunnery is where the Catholic Church sends women they believe to be “troubled.” Troubled in the sense of disobeying what they think God’s will is — so they were unfaithful in marriage, had a child out of wedlock, that sort of thing.
That’s not the reason why Father Thomas and Father John are being sent to this place, however. They’re here to investigate a claim sent in through an anonymous letter that says that the nunnery’s statue of the Virgin Mary has been weeping blood.
Excited that this could be some kind of miracle or sign from God himself, Father John decides to bring a camera along to document the whole thing.
Father Thomas doesn’t share that same kind of enthusiasm. He’s been sent on missions like this for the past twenty years, and never once has he seen what was actually a miracle — it’s always just some kind of trick or lie. Before even stepping in the building of the nunnery, he’s entirely convinced that this claim can’t be real.
Turns out, both of them are wrong. It’s not a sign from God and it’s definitely not a trick — it’s something much worse and more sinister.
Part of that evilness comes from the establishment itself. The Mother Superior (Helena Bereen) makes it clear from the get-go that the two of them are not welcome here and that she doesn’t want them filming the things that go on inside the nunnery. The longer they stay, the more they can see why — the women being kept here are practically prisoners with no rights whatsoever, and the nuns won’t hesitate to keep them in their place.
The other, even more disturbing part of that evilness comes from all the unexplained things: the children’s laughter night (the children’s wing in this nunnery shut down years ago), the footsteps coming from the basement and, yes, even the weeping blood.
It’s a great concept for a horror movie that, quite honestly, should have been an easy home-run. Instead of introducing us to a priest character who spits out a bunch of exposition during the second act — which is what most horror movies do — we actually get to follow those characters around the entire time and hear their story.
There’s definitely a story to tell, too. The parts I was most drawn to in The Devil’s Doorway was the dynamic between Father Thomas and Father John. More specifically, Father Thomas is a really interesting character as he’s battling his issues of belief while also trying to understand his past ties to this nunnery.
Those ties are never fully explained, which I actually slightly admire. I don’t need a horror movie to spell everything out for me — I like being able to fill in some of the blanks myself.
Unfortunately, it’s what The Devil’s Doorway chooses to fill its short runtime with instead that makes it such a let-down. Nothing in this movie is actually scary. It’s all a bunch of clichés and jump scares that don’t have the lasting impression that director Aislinn Clarke thinks they’re going to have. You’ve seen everything in The Devil’s Doorway done before, and you’ve seen it done a lot better.
Worse than all of that, though, is the found-footage. There are certain horror movies that know how to use found-footage well — Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project both come to mind, as there’s a purpose for that genre in both of those movies and it leaves a lasting impression.
At the start of The Devil’s Doorway, I thought they might be able to actually do something with this medium. They made it a period piece, meaning the technology was a lot older and whatnot, so maybe they were on to something here.
But no. Turns out, it was really just another cheap trick to try and cut some more money off the budget, as most of the things that happen in The Devil’s Doorway are shot in the dark (there’s one repeated thing they do with a burnt out lightbulb that really got on my nerves) or when the camera is shaking so much that you can’t even tell what’s going on.
There are some scenes where we’re doing nothing more than listening to a tape recorder while they show a bunch of stock images of crucifixes and what not and it’s just like, come on. You can do better than that.
I have no problem with The Devil’s Doorway being a cheap movie to make — just about every movie Blumhouse Productions make it with a shoestring budget, and I love a lot of the things they put out (another shameless plug for Upgrade). It becomes a problem when you approach that budget with the mindset of ‘Well, we know we’ll draw in enough horror fans to make our budget back no matter how good the movie is, so I guess we don’t have to try all that hard.’
I won’t go as far as to say that’s 100% happened with The Devil’s Doorway, but they certainly don’t utilize this concept to it’s fullest ability. Instead, they settle for a whole bunch of nonsense that makes a 1 hour and 17-minute runtime feel long.
Watch the trailer for The Devil’s Doorway here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!
'The Devil's Doorway' review: Found-footage at its worst3