I’m not a horror fan by any stretch of the imagination, at least not in the modern era. I feel that the genre has lost any sense of enjoyment by replacing steady tension building with jump scares and cliched villains. I yearn for the more personal stories that can make me think as well as make the skin on the back of my neck rise up as I confront the horrors of the human condition.
I Trapped the Devil ticks all those boxes in a subdued manner while also telling a relatable story of loss and loneliness.
I Trapped the Devil
Director: Josh Lobo
Release Date: April 26, 2019 (Limited/VOD)
From the opening scene, we already know that this isn’t going to end well as we see the aftermath of the events that are about to take place. Married couple Matt (AJ Bowen) and Sarah (Jocelin Donahue) show up unannounced at the home of Matt’s brother Steve (Scott Poythress) to celebrate Christmas with him. It’s not entirely clear why at first, but Steve has become a bit of a shut-in, keeping his windows covered in newspapers and seemingly keeping out of contact with his brother.
Tensions are high at first as Steve wants nothing to do with Matt and only obliges the couple staying to please Sarah. After a strained conversation over dinner, Steve asks Matt if he can trust him with possibly dangerous information. Steve confesses that behind a crucifix laden locked door in his basement, he has someone or something trapped that he believes is the Devil.
What follows is a steadily paced paranoia driven psychological horror treat that makes every character question what should be done with the captive in the basement, as well as explores the coping mechanisms of grieving and loss. I won’t betray anything further in the story as I feel that the journey is the best part of I Trapped the Devil because it consistently makes you wonder who or what is behind the door in the basement.
At a mere 83 minutes of runtime, there’s little time for lollygagging, and while there are moments of quiet, it’s never plodding and always moving towards the eventual conclusion. I’m usually a stickler for hitting the hour forty mark and making sure you have enough story to fill it out but I actually enjoyed how sparse the story was because it allowed more time to sink into the paranoid story.
Considering the entire movie takes place in a single home except for one scene in a police car, a lot of this movie is riding on the actors and the atmosphere. On the whole, the acting starts off a little shaky but definitely gets better as the movie wears on. There is little if any cohesion between the characters at the beginning and by the end of the movie it feels like they are all operating on the same wavelength. That being said, the star of the movie is Scott Poythress as the clearly broken, possibly insane Steve. Steve’s hopelessness from his loss bleeds out of the screen and really makes you feel for the aching man.
Wherein the acting takes a little while to find some footing, the atmosphere is on point right from the start. I Trapped the Devil is awash in desaturated colors that really drive home the depressed feeling of the main character. It helps that the story takes place at Christmas time so the usual cheery Christmas lights add to the contrasting lives of Steve and Matt. The basement scenes are all filmed with only red lighting as their primary source that makes the basement truly feel like it could be a portal to hell.
While this won’t be a standout of the genre like Mandy was last year, I Trapped the Devil is bleak and poignant enough to be worthy of a watch. It won’t scare the pants off you but it will make you think about evil, and what happens when something bad happens to someone you love.