Trust a Nazi, or trust a Demon. That’s the perilous decision facing a pair of Kiwi Commandos who land on a Nazi occupied Channel Island on the eve of D-Day. Captain Grogan and Sergeant Tane have been sent on a sabotage mission which calls for them to get on and off the island as quickly as possible. When they arrive at the Nazi stronghold however they hear bloodcurdling screams and fear one of their own may be being tortured.
Anybody who has even a basic knowledge of horror movies will know where events are heading next and sure enough the Commandos ignore logic and decide to investigate the stronghold further. Once inside they get separated and as they advance further into the labyrinthine bunker system they find a series of gorged and decapitated German soldiers. Grogan then finds an office with little inside but a couple of dead Nazis, mysterious markings drawn on the wall and a black book on the occult. After zeroing in on the source of the female screams he heard from afar, Grogan is accosted and knocked out cold by a German Colonel. Colonel Mayer appears to the sole inhabitant left on the island and he explains to the captured Grogan that the screams he can here are not that of a human woman but a creature from the pits of hell. The Nazis have apparently being scouring the globe for assorted supernatural creatures and occult relics which will assist with their war effort. Apparently they have even gone after the Lost Ark. That would make a good film that would.
Eventually Grogan comes face to face with the creature only to find it has taken the form of his deceased wife. Naturally the demon preys upon Grogan’s mourning for his lost wife and attempts to seduce him into setting her free. The Colonel talks Grogan down from doing so and tries to convince him that they need to put their differences aside to destroy the demon. Mayer explains that now he has become fully aware of the demon’s immense power, even he recognises the danger the world would face should Hitler gain control of it. The film then plays out with us unsure as to whether the two officers really can work together and equally unsure whether either of them can actually destroy the demon.
Director Paul Campion was clearly working on a tight budget, but with limited resources he does well to deliver a tense film that soon becomes very claustrophobic amidst the tight corridors of the bunker. It’s the small cramped space that makes the film work, if things weren’t so tightly confined then the film would simply not work. The majority of the film takes place with just Grogan and Mayer physically and mentally sparring in one room while the shape shifting demon lurks upstairs, shrieking and snarling for flesh. Speaking of flesh, there’s plenty of guts and gore on show in The Devil’s Rock but it can get a little OTT at times. In the absence of any real scares, the horror element of the film is focused primarily on the gruesome violence instead. This is to the film’s detriment in a way as its main strength is the dramatic tension built up through conversations between the two officers while the demon remains unseen in the next room. This tension should really be its prime focus and not bloody attempts at shock value.
Ultimately, like so many low-budget horrors, the film suffers from having to reveal its creature and the end result is never quite as scary as the image you conjure up in your head. There’s not a whole lot of plot involved and, as I mentioned previously, there is a distinct lack of scares for a movie billed as a horror. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of tension throughout and clocking in at around 80 minutes works to its advantage as it remains a short and simple concept-horror movie. It won’t be to everybody’s taste but for anyone with an interest in the genre it’s a decent enough watch.
The Devil’s Rock is out on DVD 11th July 2011.
Director: Paul Campion
Stars: Craig Hall, Matthew Sunderland, Gina Varela
Runtime: 86 min
Country: New Zealand