Devil Seed (Greg A. Sager, 2012)
Man, I really wanted to like Devil Seed, my “trolling the bottom of my Netflix queue” movie for the day. And for about twenty minutes, maybe thirty, I was able to keep up the illusion that it was actually going to work. There are a lot of good, if unoriginal, ideas in this flick, the acting is at least a few shades less than atrocious, Sager (in his directorial debut) has a firm grip on where one should put a camera for good, if not always maximum, effect. (Hold that thought, we’ll be coming back to it). Where the movie fails—repeatedly, and hugely in spots—is in its script, co-written by Sager and Geoff Hart.
The plot revolves around three college-aged housemates. As we open, they’re returning from summer break. Jessica (Son of the Sunshine‘s Shantelle Canzanese), over the summer, has brokered them a fantastic new place to live for the same amount they were paying last year. (Warning bells going off in your head yet?) Bree (Kenneyville‘s Vanessa Broze) has already gotten back by the time Jessica heads off to the airport to pick up the third housemate, Alex (Michelle Argyris in her big-screen debut). That enables Bree to get in a bit of sack time with Alex’s boyfriend Brian (Nostrum‘s Kevin Jake Walker) before her roomies get back. (Ever since I saw that scene I’ve been trying to find a way to pun on Desperate Housewives for the review subtitle. You’ll know if I managed to succeed by the time you read this sentence.) In any case, Alex is having some problems at home; everyone asks about her grandmother (whom we later learn is fighting breast cancer). As a tangent, Sager would have done this movie a great service if he’d turned that repetition into a theme (remember “I heard you were dead.” in Escape from New York?) rather than just letting it be repetition, but back to the story. Party-girl Jessica wants to go out and get hammered before classes take up their time, and she drags Alex along, determined to cheer her up. After getting blasted, the two of them stumble into the basement studio of a cut-rate psychic (Louise Hollingsworth in her screen debut, and if there is any justice in the world she will go far; her scenes in this movie are easily the best) who turns out to be very good at what she does—too good, in fact, and over the next few days, Alex becomes convinced that she is possessed. Jessica refers her to Professor Madison (Silent Witness‘ Wayne Conroy) for help…
As I said, lot of very good ideas there. But they never cohere into anything that takes them and makes something interesting or original. There are also, aside from the script’s glaring problems (they start at the beginning, stop being minor issues right after the first scene with the psychic, and by the time you hit the final sequence, they’re monumental), some smaller things that by themselves aren’t huge, but add up. As an example, take the camera placement in a pivotal scene. We, of course, know that Alex is quite correct in her assumption, but everyone else in the movie is in need of convincing. Without being too spoily, there’s a particular scene where one of the characters referenced in the synopsis is given proof that Alex is indeed possessed when said character, seeing Alex being attacked by a demon, goes to help and is repelled by an invisible force. Alex is lying on the bed, and the character is standing between the bed and the doorway. The camera is placed on the other side of the bed, but angled low enough so a bit of the bed (and Alex) can be seen in the shot, which distracts from the effect Sager is trying to achieve here. It doesn’t help that this scene is, if you change the relationship between the characters, an homage to/ripoff of a scene early in the 1980 fight flick The Entity—which means Devil Seed immediately invites comparisons both to The Entity and to the other modern film that visibly riffed on it, Insidious. Both of those are very, very good horror movies. Devil Seed is not, but it could have been an interesting one given a script that attempted to think a little more outside the ciborium. As it stands, though, there’s no compelling reason to watch it save some gratuitous nudity from Vanessa Broze, and many reasons not to. Still, it’s not the worst thing I saw this month. If you’ve got nothing better to do on a Saturday night and you’re half-drunk… **
Trailer: both red-band AND long-form (3:26)!