DON’T LET THE DEVIL IN aspires to be along the lines of ROSEMARY’S BABY or THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (or rather, a mix of the two), but it never quite reaches those heights. A passion project that pays homage to giallo and exploitation films of the 70s, you can see where it’s coming from and what it wants to be, but it’s just not there yet. This makes for a viewing experience that’s more dull and monotonous than shocking or exploitative.
This is a result of both story and acting – it’s just about equally split between the two. All of our actors are, unfortunately, stilted and stiff. A lot of the time, it seems as if they’ve only just memorized their lines and are stumbling over them. Others almost seem as if they’re being read off cue cards. It’s distracting and also, it just makes it hard for me to believe that this weird-ass small town in Maryland is the land of Satan when lines sound read and not acted. Maybe everybody was supposed to be under the influence of Satan and they were like puppets or something?
Then there was the story – man meets woman; apparently they get married like *snap*; she has a miscarriage; she is devastated and doesn’t leave the house (or maybe she doesn’t have a job?); he is a secret alcoholic. His job in construction (but he’s not, like, a builder – the foreman guy? The boss. The one who wears a suit and carries the plans around. That guy.) offers to move him and his wife to Maryland so they can get away from the city, have a change of pace to heal, and he can oversee the building of a big casino. Cool beans, eh? But he also has to go to therapy because his boss is worried. (Later in the movie, there will be a random line about the husband having PTSD. I have no idea why or what from and I don’t recall it ever being mentioned again). So they move to an itsy town that kinda makes my small, in the middle of nowhere, Alabama town look normal – which is really hard to do, trust me. They meet a hippie/Tibetan monk/homeless guy right off the bat (he’s my favorite character) and then they meet a lot of people who hate them for no reason. Well, the casino is a reason that’s given but there’s also a newspaper article that has a huge headline about how excited the town is to get the casino so…I dunno? Then they meet the police chief because someone breaks into their house and paints a pentagram on their wall (*gasps* “a symbol that represents the elements and Spirit? Nooooo!!!!!”) and because someone steals the wife’s journal. *shrugs* Got me. This couple tries different things to fit in – even GOING TO CHURCH. Yep, drastic measures indeed. But nothing works and people all over town know all the intimate details of their lives and a lot of men are obsessed with dude’s sex life (but in a creepy way, not a bro way) and somehow Satanic worship works its way in here and shit happens. It’s just that there’s a lot of boring bits of the woman being melodramatic about her journal and them going back and forth over leaving or not (“honey, the chief said it’s normal for people to break in and steal stuff in small towns like this. It’s fine. In fact, he said it would get worse! See, something to look forward to.”) and people being dicks and the husband getting all yell-face and honestly close to the end, I started to think he didn’t have a wife or a job, that he had just made them up in his head and had this entire fantasy life in his head based on real life and that would’ve actually been cooler.
Sighs. I really liked the camera work in this film and I am def a fan of giallo, but this…this just needs to be tighter. If the script made a little bit more sense and the acting was just a little better, it would improve DON’T LET THE DEVIL IN greatly. For a passion project (ie done on a strict budget), it’s absolutely well-done and I commend Courtney Sell for that. I just think that it could be made into something more terrific and creepy with a little work. Check ’em out on IMDB for more info!