* Finally, a Faith-Based Christian Film with some meat to it! *
“The Jersey Devil” plays fast and loose with the details of any particular biblical source, but that doesn’t make this film any less worthy as a spiritual guide to help viewers on a path towards an afterlife without all the guilt associated with following any moral code.
Starring Jack Mulcahy as Lucifer and Keith Collins as James Burnett, the demented soul who is recruited to take over the reigns of Hell from Lucifer so that he can retire and enjoy himself a little bit. Along for the ride is Richard (Edvin Ortega), a recently lost soul with a crippling porn addiction and no backbone who James recruits to be his new Devil’s Advocate. Once Lucifer hands over the keys to the kingdom below, James’ first order of business is to relocate Hell to somewhere new and put a “fresh face” on Hell to entice more souls. His choice? Jersey City, NJ. Lucifer instantly regrets his decision to retire, and follows the new Satan to drag him back to the original Hell.
Directed by Joseph Pepitone from a script by he and brother Billy Pepitone, the movie is a fun comedy with the pacing and style at the speed of a Farrelly Brothers film, though without the matching budget. The performers all did well with the genre, with engaging, believable performances, and most of the jokes landed quite well. The strongest challenge for the filmmakers must have been the budget limits to their story. When Lucifer goes on a cat & mouse chase with James, the characters were still limited to human sensory boundaries, which I’m sure saved them any SFX costs (think Warner Bros. cartoon gimmicks vs. lighting bolts & superhuman forces).
Of course, one of the beauties of indie films are the creative decisions that budget limitations like these can force, as one of my favorite scenes in the film was when the original Lucifer is held up in traffic for trying to use an EZ-Pass lane without an EZ-Pass. How often would you think a toll booth attendant could hold Lucifer at bay? It’s a refreshing take to see the devil really may not be any more or less powerful than any of the rest of us?
Performance standout would have to be Chris Mulkey as God, whose “Why do you make me do this?” style is now one of my most appreciated portrayals of God in cinema, above Alanis Morissette in “Dogma” but not quite on the level of George Burns in “Oh, God”.
Other great performances were shared by Penelope Lagos as Tori LaSalle, a lost soul serving eternity as a strip-club waitress, until Richard convinces James to let her help them build the new vision of Hell, and Stephen Fontana’s portrayal of Judas was almost over-the-top to start but became one of the best characters to watch as the film progressed (think of Chris Elliot’s character Hanson, the butler in Scary Movie 2).
All-in-all, The Jersey Devil is a great new comedy with ample laughs for anyone not too uptight about the ways of the world and afterlife, whether you are yourself religious or not.
DISCLAIMER: The author’s note at the top of this review is sarcastic – this is not a faith-based film, but rather a satirical adult comedy about Satan, Hell, and New Jersey. The film contains nudity, sex, and adult language, but sadly not much drugs or violence (for a film about Hell, that is a downside).
The film is being released by the Shami Media Group and will be available in stores and online on October 27th.