Its 1:42 pm
A few months back I met was hyping and promoting “A Dark Song” and it’s director,Liam Gavin,on Twitter. In doing so I ran across another Irish filmmaker who was prepping her debut feature that like a “Dark Song”,was also was being released on IFC Midnight.
I started tweeting with Aislinn Clarke very lightly and when I saw the trailer for “The Devil’s Doorway”,I got pretty hyped up to see it.
It took a few months but finally “Doorway” finally hit shelves here in America and this week,I finally was able to get a copy of it. During this time,I read about the background of the film and of its director. The more I read,the more excited I got. I had a inkling of what I was expecting to see,I just wanted to see how Miss. Clarke was going to tell the tale.
“The Devil’s Doorway” as a horror film is decent,as a “found footage” film,it does it job with grit and with a excellent cast. It has its spooky moments,jump scares and demon possession scenes down pat.
Where the “Doorway” excels at is in its background story which is told in the opening credits. Set in 1960 Ireland,two Catholic priests,Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton are assigned to investigate a claim that a statue of Virgin Mary is crying blood. The letter sent in secret by a nun who is concerned by weird happenings.
Father Thornton is the much younger of two and he is filming the investigation. Father Riley is the veteran of the two and has conducted a fair share of religious “miracles” and as he tells John,he has never uncovered a true miracle,only “tricksters”.
The two priests go to what is called a Magdalene laundry,which the Church started in the 1760s in Ireland,many women who were pregnant,mentally ill,orphans,prostitutes and even seduced women. The women work doing laundry and other chores in a building that has seen much better days.
Father Thomas introduces himself to the Mother Superior and outlines their mission at the laundry. The Mother Superior tries to put off the two priests,first with honey and innocence and later with open hostility. While Father John is a little cowed,Thomas is not and it leads to the most powerful scene in the film when the priest and nun argue over which direction the church has gone in dealing with these women. The Mother Superior points out how the laundries are not so much slave houses as much as where the church hides its cases of women being taken of and just how the nuns have helped keep the Vatican’s dirty little secrets.
It’s clear that Clarke has researched the subject well and “The Devil’s Doorway” plays like a documentary for the first 30-35 minutes. It’s powerful storytelling and superb performances from Lalor Roddy who plays Father Thomas and Helena Bereen who matches wits with Thomas as the Mother Superior.
The last third of this film slides nicely and smoothly into a unspeakable evil lurking in the basement and again,Roddy is spot on as his Father Thomas,who never really believed,not only does but he charges forward headfirst to meet what he can’t explain.
The film ends a little bit differently then most and we won’t spoil it but the last 10 minutes is quite a ride before it ends suddenly as most found footage films do.
My only two quibbles are that we don’t really get any background on the Mother Superior and Father John. The story is centered on the three mains but on Thomas stands out. I think have a 76 minute run time (72 after the credits) really hurts “Doorway” as it could have used an 18-25 minutes for character development. I mean John,is actually rather fearless in his own right but we don’t why or how he developed that trait. Ciaran Flynn does a nice job as Father John,for someone so young,he knows which questions to ask to find out what is going on.
I enjoyed the “The Devil’s Doorway” quite a bit for the history lesson that Clarke shared in her script (along with co-writer Martin Brennan). It’s a fine debut and definitely puts Aislinn Clarke on the map as a director who can deliver chills and thrills. Paladin and I can’t wait to see what she will do next,whatever it is,we’ll be watching.
Again,the cast was great,Roddy and Bereen were just perfect sparring partners and with the intensity between the two really added to ever closing grip of fear that has befallen the laundry.
“The Devil’s Doorway” is unrated but should be considered an “R”. Its run time is 76 minutes and it has no special features.
The cheetah and I give this film 2 thumbs/2 paws straight up.
Let us know if the “The Devil’s Doorway” sounds like your cup of tea by leaving a comment below.