Review: Irish found-footage horror film ‘The Devil’s Doorway’ can’t escape clichés
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
The complete guide to home viewing
Get Screen Gab for weekly recommendations, analysis, interviews and irreverent discussion of the TV and streaming movies everyone’s talking about.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.