18th Feb2014

‘The Devil’s Bargain’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jonnie Hurn, Chloe Farnworth, Dan Burman | Written and Directed by Drew Cullingham


Drew Cullingham, writer/director of the Western vampire flick Umbrage: The First Vampire, returns with The Devil’s Bargain, a apocalyptic tale set in 1974 and shot on a shoestring budget in twenty-four hours over four days, using an experimental ‘pinhole’ technique and distributed outside the UK’s censorship regime via streaming service Distrify.

With earth about to be obliterated by a massive asteroid, Adi (Hurn) and his young wife Ange (Farnworth), haunted by memories of the death of their son, journey to the idyllic rural setting where he was conceived, determined to shed clothes, inhibitions and psychological traumas before the planet is destroyed forever. But the arrival of Luca (Burman), a charismatic and mysterious young photographer, turns what’s left of their world upside-down and the horror to come is of biblical proportions.

As a reviewer it can often take something special to peak ones interest in a movie – in the case of The Devil’s Bargain it was the news the writer/director Drew Cullingham was set to self-distribute his latest movie via Distrify, the online video site that lets you sell or stream your film for a fee, directly to fans. Why did that peak my interest? Well, I stupidly thought that distributing an apocalyptic tale, that apparently was filmed under the credo of “No money. No clothes. No fear” would perhaps push the boundaries of what was acceptable within the confines of the BBFC. How wrong could I have been!

Instead The Devil’s Bargain is an overwrought, self-indulgent mess of a film that is the complete epitome of style over substance. The type of film that you’d expect from an art student not the fourth feature from an established director… And the real reason this film was released via self-distribution perhaps?

Filled with copious amounts of sex and nudity, no doubt to fill the massive holes in the script, the film makes heavy use of religious symbolism and biblical references. Playing out like a psychedelic take on an Adam and Eve tale (literally, as Cullingham makes ridiculous overuse of an apple through the film), it seems clear that Cullingham was influenced by Ben Wheatley’s much better lo-fi effort A Field in England – yet in no way could The Devil’s Bargain ever measure up to that flick.

It all builds into a ridiculous crescendo that ups the over-indulgence and over-wrought religious tone and even throws in a badly-staged fight between the two male leads (that, to me, just screamed Women in Love knock-off) in it’s attempt to make meaning of everything that has come before.

In the end, despite some calling this “challenging cinema”, I see nothing worth wasting your money or your time on in The Devil’s Bargain. Definitely one to avoid. Unless of course you’re a cinema masochist.


Comments are closed.