Crash Analysis: THE DEVIL’S ROCK (New Zealand, 2011)

War is a bitch 

A Kiwi and a Nazi versus the devil

Two New Zealand commandos (Craig Hall and Carlos Drinkwater) enter a Nazi bunker on one of the Channel Islands before D-Day. There mission is to demolish gun emplacements, but when they hear screams from within a bunker, Captain Ben Grogan (Hall) can’t help but investigate. Once inside, he meets Colonel Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland) and the German officer’s female captive (Gina Varela).

Great dialogue and solid special effects (mostly thanks to the Weta Workshop), as well as strong acting and sound cinematography by Rob Marsh, who worked the camera for LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), make THE DEVIL’S ROCK a compelling supernatural tale akin to a Lovecraftian homage. And the atmosphere, thanks to amazing lighting and composition, delivers one hell of a creep and isolation factor. Nightmares are made of this stuff.

The movie is not a gorefest or mystical-magical joyride, but a battle of wills between two people and a demon most exorcism flicks can’t even touch. Hall, Sunderland and Varela are a trio of masterful performers that will keep you engaged. And this is important because the film does suffer a bit from second act doldrums and drags a little.

Writer, director and executive producer Paul Campion poured his heart, soul and wallet into this project – and even re-mortgaged his home to bring it to the screen. Along with fellow scribes Paul Finch and Brett Ihaka, the threesome deliver a compelling story far removed from the tried and trite. This is quite an original tale that should suit those horror fans looking for solid, cerebral entertainment beyond some hack-and-slice garbage that only serves as fodder for a drinking game.

Granted, the movie does have its flaws, especially that act two lag, and a character that seemingly takes a bit too long to “get it”, but overall, this is one that should keep moviegoers talking.

Though more of a special effects guru, for twenty-three titles and counting, there’s no doubt Campion will helm another picture. I also have no reservations that instead of coming to his financial rescue this time, the New Zealand Film Commission may just give the director money up front. I only hope Campion’s next movie is as intelligent as this one.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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