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Thursday, April 1, 2010

THE DEVIL'S CURSE (aka CREDO) -- movie review by porfle

My personal indicator of how scary a movie is consists of how scared I am to walk down the dark hallway that leads to my bathroom while I'm watching it. THE DEVIL'S CURSE, aka CREDO (2008), didn't quite put the indicator needle into the red zone, but it came pretty darn close.

This modest but effective UK effort begins with five college friends getting thrown out of their apartment house, which renders them homeless until they break into an abandoned building and set up temporary residence. It's a huge, decrepit old place that was once a Catholic boarding school, and where, according to urban legend, four previous occupants all committed suicide (a fifth went mad) after screwing around with the dark arts and inadvertently conjuring up evil forces. But that's all just poppycock, eh wot?

A pretty, overly diligent student named Alice (the likable MyAnna Buring, THE DESCENT) keeps her nose in the books while her four housemates do just about what we expect them to, which is to start messing around with a Ouija board. Before long, strange happenings and unexplained noises begin to occur, and when one of the group is found hanging by an electrical cord, the others decide it's time to vacate the premises forthwith. But the only exit is now chained shut, and whatever stalks the dark hallways of the creepy old building is coming for them.

The other characters besides Alice seem disposable at first, but we gradually get to know them. There's Jock, the fratboy American (Clayton Watson of THE MATRIX II and III), whose stereotypical party animal exterior hides some deep insecurities; Scotty (Mark Joseph), the sensitive nerd who secretly pines for Alice while guiltily observing her with a hidden camera; Jazz (Rhea Bailey), the cool black girl with a secret phobia that will come into play in a big way later on; and Timmy (Nathalie Pownall), the shy, suicidal lesbian. Each is eventually confronted by a sinister presence and made to face their innermost guilt and fear, which some will find too much to bear.

Unusual for a modern horror film, THE DEVIL'S CURSE has just a few of the usual shock cuts and hardly any gore, relying instead on loads of eerie atmosphere and spine-chilling sound design. This harkens back to the old days in which the most frightening things were the ones you didn't see. We're kept on edge waiting for something to come around the next corner or jump out of the dark at any moment, while distant screams echo along with other dreadful, unknown sounds. This makes for a BLAIR WITCH type of experience which generates an overall feeling of sustained expectation and unease rather than a series of violent setpieces and visceral shocks.

Director Toni Harman (DADDY'S BOY) makes great use of one of those lucky "found" locations that really elevates the film to a higher level. The direction and photography are fine, and writer Alex Wakeford generally refrains from indulging in the usual teens-in-peril cliches (for one thing, the "party to end all parties" that Jock keeps gushing about never happens, and for another thing--amazingly--nobody has sex). Certain characters may act silly at times, but the film itself maintains a sober, dead-serious tone throughout which is a major element of its effectiveness. And finally, there's a twist ending which, while not on the level of THE SIXTH SENSE, still managed to set my "WTF?" nerve a-tingle for a while.

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of modern horror fans who require endless scenes of evisceration and dismemberment in order to be "scared", and THE DEVIL'S CURSE will probably drive them straight to IMDb to start yet another "worst movie ever" thread. But if you can appreciate a film that establishes a spooky premise and then gradually fills it with a strong sense of dread, then this flick may push the needle of your personal scare indicator fairly close to the old red zone.

Buy it at

Read our interview with the producer and director HERE


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