The Devil’s Rock
by Jason Coffman
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From Hellboy to Eric Stanze’s recent indie shocker Ratline, the Nazi preoccupation with the occult has proven to be fertile ground for horror writers and filmmakers. Independent films have found this to be a rich vein of material with a weirdly authentic historical tinge, including recent standouts such as 2008’s Outpost (whose sequel is due out this year). Add to the list debut feature filmmaker Paul Campion’s The Devil’s Rock, a tense, claustrophobic tale that stands up to the best in this curious subgenre.
Dispatched to destroy a gun emplacement on a remote island on the eve of the invasion of Normandy, Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) stumble upon a strange scene. The huge bunker is all but abandoned, strewn with bodies and splattered with blood. Whatever has happened has left only two survivors: Colonel Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland) and a woman (Gina Varela) chained to a wall and begging for help. Grogan makes the obvious assumption that Meyer has been using the woman for experiments, but soon discovers that the truth is far more sinister.
Explaining much more would spoil some of the carefully plotted surprises in The Devil’s Rock. The tiny cast and constricted spaces help fuel the deep sense of claustrophobia and tension. Director Campion has assembled a great cast to carry the film, which is invaluable since any weak link could be disastrous in such a small cast. Craig Hall and Matthew Sunderland are particularly strong in what end up being the two roles with the most screen time, carefully trying to sense each other’s motivations and tentatively working together to defeat an extremely powerful mutual enemy. Great work also by WETA for excellent, effective makeup and gore effects, including a sly nod to Cannibal Holocaust.
The Devil’s Rock also recalls another great horror film tradition: excellent independent work from New Zealand. This is a surprisingly accomplished debut from Paul Campion, and proudly joins the ranks of other distinguished New Zealand horrors such as Scott Reynolds’s The Ugly and the early works of Peter Jackson. Campion has proven with The Devil’s Rock that he is a talent to watch for, and horror fans who have a taste for something unique will no doubt be keeping an eye out for his next project. Said horror fans are hereby warned to ignore the ridiculously misleading cover of this DVD and give The Devil’s Rock a watch.
Entertainment One released The Devil’s Rock DVD on 14 February 2012. Special features include a full-length commentary by Paul Campion, several behind-the-scenes featurettes (running over an hour in total), outtakes, special effects comparisons and extended scenes.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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