Every once in a while, in my quest to find scary movies, I stumble across a hidden gem--not necessarily scary, but a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, and thus allows for laughs and acting chemistry to carry it through. Devil's Den is one such movie.
Following in the footsteps of Project Greenlight's last pet project, Feast, as well as cribbing from 1996's From Dusk Til Dawn, Devil's Den relies on witty lines and slightly cheesy special effects to entertain, and for that, it delivers.
With only a handful of characters, the plot unfolds in a strip club (aptly called Devil's Den) where the strippers offer more than meets the eye. The film is carried primarily by three actors: Ken Foree (from 1978's Dawn of the Dead and 2005's The Devil's Rejects, as well as television's The X Files and Babylon 5), who portrays demon hunter Leonard; Devon Sawa (the star of 1999's Idle Hands and 2000's Final Destination), playing wanna-be drug dealer and what's-in-it-for-me dude Quinn; and Kelly Hu (of 2003's X2 and Cradle 2 the Grave, as well as television's In Case of Emergency) as assassin-turned-demon-hunter Caitlin.
The cast is rounded out by Steven Schub, whose most recent role is that of Sabir on television's 24; Karen Maxwell, who has had minor roles on television's Medium and ER, as Candy; and Dawn Olivieri, who has had turns on television's How I Met Your Mother, Veronica Mars and Las Vegas, as Jezebel.
Devil's Den is directed by Jeff Burr, whose body of work also includes Night of the Scarecrow (1995), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994), Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994), Puppet Master 4 (1993), "Land of the Lost" (1991), and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990).
In an interesting turn of events, the film is written by Mitch Gould, who is probably best known for his stunt work on such films as Domino (2005), and who also has credits for acting, producing, and camera and electrical work on films.
Stunt work plays a major role in Devil's Den. Unfortunately, the stunts are sometimes overshadowed by cheesy special effects. For instance, in one early fight scene, a body is decapitated, and blood spurts out like water from a sprinkler.
Luckily, the film seems to know it lacks in fright and makes up for it in witty banter between the main characters, such as when Quinn referred to the club as a "recruiting center for the undead," or the fact that Quinn is terrified of squirrels.
Devil's Den is presented in widescreen format at 1.78:1/16x9 aspect ratio. Because much of the film is set in a dimly lit strip club, with portions of it shot outside at night and some scenes set in caves, I have to give props to the lighting department, as there was never a point where I couldn't see the action.
With the option of Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 or 2.0, the sound quality of Devil's Den was good, except for one point when the actors were whispering.
The DVD includes several extras. "Bell of the Beast: The Making of Devil's Den" explains the writer's action/horror/comedy approach to the film, as well as shows how some of the special effects and stunts were created. (Interestingly, Devon Sawa was a last-minute cast who was closed the day before shooting started.) "Devil's Den--The Blooper Reel" is just that. There is also a commentary option with Mitch Gould, John Duffy and musical composer Jon Lee. In it, they explain a lot of logistical issues and how sets were created, as well as provide character notes and special effects makeup issues, such as how the prosthetic teeth were a challenge for the actors.
Between the funny dialogue and chemistry between the characters, I was able to overlook the poor attempts at scary effects and enjoy Devil's Den for the light romp it is.
Juliet Farmer, aka writnkitten