There are a lot of bad movies in the world, and a movie buff like myself often wonders where they all come from. How do they get made, and why do they get made? Are they intended to rip people off, or are they made by amateur enthusiasts who pour all of their limited resources, as well as their hearts, into it? I’m sure there are several answers to these questions. Some such movies belong to a certain niche, and are probably made by people who love that particular subgenre. And if the audience belongs to the same niche, it’s possible they may enjoy the product, almost no matter how unprofessional it is.
I like a lot of zombie movies. I think they are often great fun. But in order to be good entertainment, they have to be either very amusing or very well-produced, or, of course, both. Devil’s Crossing is neither. It is neither intentionally nor unintentionally funny. I am slightly loath to give it a bum rap, because I think there may be a (small) number of fans of indie zombie flicks who are probably in a position to appreciate this. Sadly, I am not among them, and it falls to me to give my opinion of this movie. Bit of a bad luck of the draw there.
As the movie opens, and after an ambitiously long credits sequence, one wonders when this is supposed to take place. The plot is clearly of the western type, but the characters are wearing largely modern clothes and there are car wrecks outside the saloon. On looking at the promotional material, one finds that it is supposed to take place “in a world torn by nuclear destruction where the wild west and the way of the gun have risen again as the only means of survival.” Nuclear destruction? Really? Could have fooled me. In fact, the alleged future setting is nothing but an excuse for not having the budget to let the action take place in a proper western setting. It’s an admirable attempt to turn a weakness of the production into a strength, but, there isn’t a single detail to identify this story as one taking place in the future. Thusly, we’re not off to a very good start.
Most of the movie takes place in a saloon called the Wailing Banshee. Various unsavory people hang out there, including several prostitutes (but they’re among the good guys), and early on a bounty hunter comes along and kills several people. A several hundred years old guy called Shadrach (a cool name, I’ll admit) is apparently a “soul collector” who used to work for the devil (very muddled plot here – and the devil is an old guy who calls himself “Louise”. Whether this is some kind of joke is not clear), but when the zombies attack he’s basically doing the same thing as the rest of the characters: shooting them. So the cast is holed up in the saloon, much like the cast of Shaun of the Dead in the pub, and must try to shoot their way out. The zombies (victims of the aforementioned nuclear destruction, or some supernatural phenomenon? I didn’t notice an explanation) are not great, and neither is the overall acting – but, it’s not on par with the worst I’ve seen, either.
The story, though, if one alleges that there is one, is magnificently awful, and so are many of the production values, especially the pacing, which is determined by the writing and directing (admittedly by a young first-time director). It’s a short movie – some 84 minutes – with several of those expended on credits, and it seems plain that it should have been a lot shorter, because the writer/director really struggles to fill the time. A lot of circumstantial and unimportant scenes are unbearably drawn out, and the dialogue, well… one kept expecting a new twist to the old clichés, but nonesuch ever materialized. Hitting the age of forty makes you acutely aware that one of the problems with a lot of young people is that, to them, clichés are not clichés – they often think that clichés is actually the established way of doing things.
The final impression is that this movie is a work of inexperience and incompetence, but possibly of passion, and maybe one shouldn’t knock that. It may be a labor of love by and for those select few who really enjoyed The Dead and the Damned a.k.a. Cowboys & Zombies (2011), which is the kind of thing Devil’s Crossing attempts to be like, but it ends up being emphatically inferior, even to that. It’s strictly for a horror indies crowd who adore low-budget indie movies for their own sake. Personally, as a fan of many kinds of movies including the better indie productions, I have a hard time understanding why people would make a movie in the first place when they are clearly not interested in giving serious attention to a lot of the basic technical aspects like writing and directing. But I suppose you have to belong to the given subculture in order to understand its logic. Or else it’s simply youthful enthusiasm. After all, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.
The DVD contains an impressive array of special features, incl. trailer, production notes, interview with the writer/director and a short horror film made by actor/director Michael Sharpe.
Devil’s Crossing is released on DVD in the UK on January 30th.
Director: James Ryan Gary
Cast: Michael Sharpe, Patrick G. Keenan, Jenny Gulley, Kevin L. Johnson and others
Runtime: 84 min.