Thursday, September 28, 2017

Devil's Gate is Only Half Open: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by the film's sales agent, Premiere Entertainment Group.

**there are minor spoilers here.

Director: Clay Staub.

Writers: Peter Aperlo and Clay Staub.

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Bridget Regan, Amanda Schull, Shawn Ashmore and Jonathan Frakes.

Devil's Gate aka Abduction is a science fiction thriller from director Clay Staub and writing partner Peter Aperlo. Staub has experience behind the camera as a second unit director, on films like 300 (2006). In Devil's Gate, Staub is more forefront, with a family waylayed by an alien invasion. This title recently had its World Premiere in Tribeca. And, IFC Midnight will show Devil's Gate, later this year, through their platforms. Devil's Gate is a very slowly paced film outing. Certain scenes are drawn out too long and events are sometimes over-explained. Still, this film is reminiscent of a few others, in the sci-fi and horror genres. A few plot points have likely been influenced from the pivotal sci-fi films, like: Fire in the Sky (1993) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But, the material has not really been improved here. Devil's Gate offers a surprise or two, but the film's story never drew this viewer into its slightly stale sci-fi world.

The story begins with the disappearance of a mother and her child. Pritchard (Milo Ventimiglia) is believed to be responsible, by protagonist and FBI Agent Daria (Amanda Schull). With a Sheriff Colt (Shawn Ashmore) in tow, they visit Pritchard's farm. In a basement, Daria finds a kidnap victim, but it is not of the human kind. Their investigation leads them to a nearby field. Here, powerful lightning strikes hide the presence of an alien species. They intend to take over the Earth. But first, they need to take over the human form. Everyone becomes part of their experiment, from here on out.

Devil's Gate suffers from a very slow pace. Characters are developed in the first two acts. But, the plot just barely plods along, in these earlier parts. It is obvious that Pritchard is agitated. Less obvious, Pritchard has already become one of the alien's experiments. Meanwhile, protagonist Daria searches the local farmhouse, with very little energy or intent. Dialogue and explanation heavy, Acts I and II drain the energy as little conflict, nor tension is introduced (even on the periphery). The attention wanes as the alien's intentions are slowly revealed, but rarely brought to bear.

This viewer was reminded of a few other films, while watching this one. There are elements of Robert Lieberman's Fire in the Sky (1993) here. Characters are beamed up to a ship, or shuttled back down, via bright shots of light. Once aboard a mysterious ship, characters undergo horrifying experiments. Though, in Devil's Gate, little time is spent aboard the alien ship. Also, in setting, this film is similar to Joel Schumacher's Blood Creek (2009). Events in both films take place at an old run down farm. Structures in both films look ready to fall apart. And, these settings create their own creepy eeriness. Finally, Devil's Gate takes a note or two from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, plotwise. Characters are taken over and used for nefarious plans by extraterrestrials. Human beings are a means to an end, for the invaders. And, how much humanity remains after a body has been inhabited by an external alien force? Devil's Gate does not really wear its influences on its sleeve. Still, certain elements, within Devil's Gate, have been tried before - especially in setting and plot.

Devil's Gate has already shown at a number of film festivals, throughout 2017. IFC Midnight will show the film, in the United States, later this year. Fans of dramatic sci-fi films may enjoy this feature. This film fan was definitely not enthralled by the film. This story and the alien threat was not engaging enough. The alien presence could have been developed more, by including the aliens in more shots - stalking the farm, or tormenting their latest abductee. Scenes like these could have improved the tension. As it is, Devil's Gate just does not hold one's interest. A lack of action and conflict, through earlier parts of the film, just make the film drag too slowly. As well, certain interactions play out much like a family drama. The finale amps up the thrills. But, by this time, one's attention might have been beamed up to another, more interesting film.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10.

This review, at Film Pulse, sums up the film accurately as well: Devil's Gate Reviewed at Film Pulse (Adam Patterson)

Devil's Gate as Abduction at Premiere Entertainment Group: Devil's Gate at Premiere with Story Details

A trailer for the film, here on 28DLA: A Devil's Gate Trailer at 28DLA

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