REVIEW: ‘The Devil’s Doorway’ Opens Strong, But Closes Weak

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Until the shoe drops, The Devil’s Doorway is a terrific movie with smart, yet subtle, layers of characterization and drama that you don’t always find in horror.  Granted, there’s more of it in independent horror these days, but it’s exceeded here. When all hell breaks loose, literally, it’s scary; however, based on the sense of dread that’s been building, it’s also a disappointment.

The first thing you have to know is that The Devil’s Doorway is a found footage film, but it’s one that’s done right. That is to say, there’s reason throughout the story for someone to be carrying a camera.  Fathers Thomas Riley (Lalor Roddy) and John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) are sent by the Vatican to investigate reports of a “miracle” at a remote Catholic asylum for “immoral” women.

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When they arrive, they have only a picture of a statue of the Virgin Mary that cried tears of blood. But soon, all of the statues are weeping blood and sounds of non-existent children are haunting the hallways at night.  The older Riley is convinced there’s no such thing as a miracle and is determined to identify the “trickster” behind it all.  The younger Thornton is much more susceptible to the supernatural.

That sounds pretty typical, but Roddy is so good as the skeptical clergyman and his reasons for doubt are so compelling, that I found it unique to watch.  He became a priest because he wanted to be closer to God. However, what he found within the church (and what he sees happening in the asylum) are as far removed from God as could possibly be.  He has faith, yet he’s not getting it from his choice of careers.

Thornton pushes him on the issue and the conversations they have while dusting for fingerprints and examining the residue of blood tears suck you into their backstories.  The net result is that you understand their motivations and care about what happens to them.  It’s probably less so for Thornton, because he’s usually the one behind the camera, which means he’s the one through which we see the horror.

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Events stopped being as interesting for me when the men discover a young pregnant woman chained in the basement.  The idea is still powerful and it reveals a possible conspiracy among the nuns at the asylum, led by the Mother Superior (Helena Bereen).  However, the execution then becomes standard for a found footage film… a lot of shaky cameras and obstructed views of the action.

It remains creepy through the end as Riley and Thornton wander the catacombs beneath the asylum, but the end is predictable.  For once, I’d like to see a character survive and show his footage to other people in order to convince them that something supernatural really happened.  I’m just overstating that The Devil’s Doorway starts out as fresh and promising, but concludes as being unoriginal.

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