25th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘I Trapped the Devil’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Scott Poythress, Chris Sullivan, Jocelin Donahue, AJ Bowen, Susan Burke | Written and Directed by Josh Lobo

trapped-devil-poster

I have mentioned many many times that I absolutely love Christmas movies. And I mean any type of movie that has that great Christmas feeling – romantic comedy? Aslong as it’s set at Christmas, I’ll probably like it! So when horror and Christmas collide I am always first in line to watch it.

That said, I Trapped The Devil doesn’t exactly have a ‘Christmas spirit’ but it is set at Christmas,and the season does play a part in the movie. This actually had a bit of a Krampus feel to it at times (only with zero comedy). The ‘unhappy family Christmas but stuck with each other for now’ setting felt familiar. Perhaps strangely, the Christmas lights were something that stuck out while watching the movie. They add this brightly coloured glare to a lot of the scenes and is a constant reminder of what time of year it is. They’re also a great contrast to the dark red tint of the basement light which is where all the horror happens. I would have liked to have heard some creepy Christmas music but this is a very small complaint!

The opening credits to I Trapped The Devil will hopefully put as big a smile on genre fans face as it did mine. Every horror movie should start with some tension, great music and then the films title suddenly appearing across the whole screen in big letters. This is what happens here and my hopes were immediately high after this moment!

The musical score is like an extra character in I Trapped The Devil. Featured constantly throughout the movie, it’s dark, creepy and harsh, while setting a perfect tone to what is happening onscreen. It helps set this sense of unease that is there from the first minute to the last. This will be up there with the best horror scores of the year and it’s no surprise it comes from an experienced composer in Ben Lovett who recently worked on Netflix horror The Ritual.

I Trapped The Devil is all about its actual physical characters too. Lead by Scott Poythress as Steve. The character is written brilliantly and Poythress’ performance is great. This is a man we need to believe isn’t crazy and despite his ridiculous claim to have trapped the Devil, you will think there’s some kind of truth to it. We soon get to understand why Steve might not be seeing things as straightforwardly as usual and like the best stories, it’s all about how he is dealing with grief. We know he is struggling and we feel sympathy for him but has this grief taken things too far.

Deciding this are Steve’s brother Matt (AJ Bowen) and his wife Karen (Susan Burke). While it is clear he is not his usual self, they do trust him and desperately want to believe that what he is saying is true to some degree even if it sounds insane. Bowen is becoming a bit of indie horror hero after starring in You’re Next, The Sacrament, Dead Night, The Guest and many more, so you know you’re getting a good performance. His interactions with Poythress and Burke just feel very natural. Burke (Southbound) is very good too, with her role becoming more intense as the film goes on. These characters are slowly but perfectly built while you will still have questions about them at the end.

I Trapped The Devil can easily be described as the probably too often used term ‘slow burn’. But it is true and it’s not a complaint as it is sometimes used. Most of the action is in the last fifteen or twenty minutes before that all of the horror and tension is from the dialogue, the performances and the score – and because all this is done to a very high standard you’ll be on the edge of your seat but not wanting to look away.
This is also a movie that I wanted to watch again immediately. At first the ending felt a little anticlimactic but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

I Trapped The Devil is a dark and original Christmas tale that is best watched on Christmas Eve with a hot chocolate in hand and the snow falling outside – or maybe that’s just me. For everyone else this is a tense and creepy original horror that might just make director Josh Lobo a wanted man in genre cinema.

**** 4/5

I Trapped the Devil screened at Arrow Video Frightfest 2019 on August 24th.
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Review originally posted on Wightblood
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