Deals with the devil are an exceedingly common theme in entertainment, particular when said Faustian pacts come with an unbearable price. Jared Cohn's modern retread repackages the familiar storyline into a blood soaked fable about the pubescent perils of the electronic age, particularly with respect to outsiders and their treatment by others. Using practical make up and special effects to revel in the gore tinged roots of its predecessors, Devil's Domain is an above the board B movie offering.
Lisa is a troubled outcast, struggling with a host of mental health issues and her budding sexuality. After a horrendous video of her goes viral, she turns to the Devil for revenge, forgetting that there is always a cost for such an unspeakable contract. Cohn's script takes a basic, but respectful approach to the subject matter. There are sequences of self-injurious behavior that are far more uncomfortable than any of the infernal dismemberments that dominate the second half. The villainous teens are victims of their own circumstances compounded by teenage bravado which is deliberately exploited in order to drive the message of acceptance home.
Madi Vohane gives a performance that is genuinely heartbreaking. It is immediately apparent that she researched her role and this is communicated during the film's memorable introductory scene. While Vohane's turn is one of the film's strengths, it is often at odds with Linda Bella's outlandish performance as Satan. Bella's painful delivery of lines that should hold some form of danger, but reliably inspire laughter could be considered a weakness, but with respect to what Devil’s Domain is trying to achieve, it halfway works. Michael Madsen is wasted in a supporting role as Lisa's thoughtful step father, once again trapping the cult film legend in a forgettable purgatory. The overall camp is contrasted against remarkable costume designs and make up effects. One of Satan's first appearances involves Bella wearing an ominous Goat mask on top of a blood red cocktail dress that perfectly frames not only Cohn's modern day incarnation of the Princess of Darkness, but also reveals a loving understanding of the many great horror epics that preceded this film.
The final act is where everything rapidly devolves, and the undeniable truth of the film's weakness becomes apparent. What begins as a cautionary tale on bullying slingshots into a satanic revenge gore fest before finally settling into an inverted Rosemary's Baby clone. Horror is a genre that works best when it has something to say, and Devil's Domain has too much social media wisdom to be paired down into sustainable gospel. Every time it hints are getting interesting, the narrative speeds away from depth in favor of (albeit) well staged violence. Brenton Berna’s sadistic production design creates ritualistic backdrops that are captured by Josh Maas’s feverish cinematography to present Lisa’s ordeal as a living nightmare tethered between perceived reality and incomprehensible evil. When combined with the makeup work and Vohane's all in performance, these are the element’s that push Devil’s Domain above its expected mediocrity and into a wasteland of untapped potential.
|Party over here!!!|
Coming soon to video on demand, Devil's Domain plays with many ideas and presents them as a predictable revenge thriller in which complex themes of sexual manipulation and supernatural contracts are teased, but never fully matured. Despite this, Cohn's social media shocker does feature a solid lead performance and some interesting visuals that make it worth supporting.
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