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Review: ‘At the Devil’s Door’ builds up to horror but never gets inside

A scene from ‘At the Devil’s Door’
A scene from “At the Devil’s Door.”
(IFC)

Writer-director Nicholas McCarthy’s “At the Devil’s Door” is indie horror with an emphasis on mood over scares, and that’s not always a bad thing.

It opens on the ill-fated decision of a teenage girl (Ashley Rickards) to play a creepy man’s game of chance in a beaten-down trailer in the desert. Nothing good ever comes of the words “He’s chosen you,” and later, she’s attacked in her bedroom by an unseen force.

Cut to years later, when real estate agent Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) discovers a mysterious girl in a red rain slicker squatting in a house she’s trying to sell, but is she the sellers’ missing daughter?

If this all sounds disjointed, it is, and when McCarthy shifts focus to Leigh’s artist sister Vera (Naya Rivera), who ultimately has the grimmest exchange with the movie’s evil spirit, things pick up, but too late to really have any impact.

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Much of “At the Devil’s Door” is patiently atmospheric scenes of actresses in shadowy spaces alone, which is a time-honored component of classic haunted house fare, but with such an arrhythmic and meager story around it, the overall effect falls flat. “At the Devil’s Door” goes right up to the threshold of being an interesting possession saga but never truly gets inside.

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“At the Devil’s Door”

MPAA rating: None

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Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.


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