The Devil’s Doorway: Directed By Aislinn Clarke
Reviewed By Richard Bell
Found footage…I know…the marmite of the horror genre, right? When it’s done well, it’s breathtakingly effective and when it’s a low to no budget carnival scare, it is abominable.
There is little doubt that the Blair Witch Project had an effect on moviegoers, good and bad. The screening I was at in Manchester saw a very disgruntled guy stand up at the end and shout, “Well, that’s two hours I’ll never get back!” The clever back story, using milk cartons and a fake news report, created by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, helped to perpetuate the myth that what the moviegoer was watching was the actual last days of three people.
But before that movie, seven years and nine days before to be exact, the BBC made Ghostwatch and it was a sensation. It told the story of a family terrorised by a spirit called Pipes and managed to terrify parents and children across the land who tuned into, what they believed to be, a documentary about a haunting. It was delivered straight with no spoilers and got an estimated 30,000 complaint calls to an answering machine that stated that the programme wasn’t real!
The shaky and grainy camera work with hurried dialogue and set pieces, has been used to great effect probably only a handful of times, in my opinion and the Lewton bus pulled in one too many occasions.
So why this heavy build up to the main event?
Well, this movie (The Devil’s Doorway) is, in my opinion, the best found footage horror to date. The subject matter, the characters, the dialogue and pace make for a truly immersive experience. However, if you are a practicing Catholic, this may be quite uncomfortable as it deals with the dark underbelly of the religion and its practices.
The movie, set in 1960 in a Magdalene Laundry in Ireland, tells the story of two priests sent by the Vatican to document a miracle in the place but find a very different story unfolding.
The movie stars Lalor Roddy as Father Thomas and Helena Bereen as Mother Superior with Ciaran Flynn as Father John and Lauren Coe as Kathleen.
It is presented as a documentary on the happenings in an oppressive environment, one where unwed mothers and their children were sent for a life in servitude to the church. Father Thomas, a beleaguered agent of the Vatican and his camera-wielding assistant, Father John are confronted with escalating events all presided over by the acerbic Mother Superior. This movie has been very carefully crafted with each scare a cryptic clue to the next one and it is quickly apparent that the Priests are rats in a maze.
Now, what sets this apart from the many other found footage movies is the dialogue. It is designed to stab at the conscience, to question the hypocrisy of religious dogma and consider the plight of the victims, the women. It is a breeding ground for the imagined horrors of hell – enter Kathleen, a possessed girl in labour and chained to a bed.
Her scenes alone give this movie gravitas.
Any more information will spoil the experience.
The brutality of life in the Magdalene Laundry, the sinister Mother Superior, the bleeding eyes of the Virgin Mary, phantoms and satanic suggestions lead this chase through the Stygian darkness to a very satisfying conclusion.
The director, Aislinn Clarke said that the horror movie comments on what is really horrifying in the real world and what she has created, on 16mm film, is indeed horrifying.
The Devil’s Doorway has 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and has made over $500,000 at the box office which is decent.
This is everything great about the genre. It uses the right medium for the job, it is carefully researched and skillfully executed, the whole cast is very strong (however, for me, the Mother Superior steals the show) and it leaves you very uneasy indeed.
I would suggest that this movie be reclassified as Profound Footage.
The Devil’s Doorway
In the fall of 1960, Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton were sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous event in an Irish home for ‘fallen women’, only to uncover something much more horrific.
Richard Bell is a poet and writer with a passion for the horror genre. He has work published by Weasel Press, Carmen Online Theatre, Night Gallery, The Horrorzine and the Fragments of Fear series on YouTube, under the name Rick Nightmare.
He lives in a sleepy hamlet in Northern England with his family and galloping insomnia.