For her first feature, Irish writer-director Aislinn Clarke follows in the footsteps of countless other horror filmmakers, compensating for a lack of resources by going the “found footage” route. “The Devil’s Doorway” isn’t cheap-looking or sloppy, though. Clarke has professional actors, an actual script (co-written with Martin Brennan and Michael B. Jackson), and an approach that resembles a refined old cinema verité documentary more than a heap of shapeless digital video.
Set in 1960, “The Devil’s Doorway” stars Lalor Roddy as the cynical Father Thomas, who’s called with a younger colleague, Father John (Ciaran Flynn), to investigate bleeding statues at an austere home for unwed mothers, run by a cruel Mother Superior (Helena Bereen). There, the priests find evidence of dark rituals, along with what appears to be a demonically possessed, pregnant 16-year-old virgin named Kathleen (Lauren Coe).
Despite the technical polish and the political subtext — referencing the Irish Catholic Church’s dodgy history with “women of ill repute” — “The Devil’s Doorway” can’t overcome the clichés of either the found-footage format or the “Satan is real!” sub-genre. There are lots of POV shots down shadowy corridors, from which pale-faced figures leap and growl.
But Roddy and Bereen in particular give fully fleshed-out performances, playing agents of a religious institution they both disrespect in subtle and blatant ways. Clarke and company inject some old-fashioned scares into the context of a deeper moral rot.
‘The Devil’s Doorway’
Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
Playing: Starts July 13, Arena CineLounge Sunset, Hollywood