The Devil's Ground:
Wait, I'm not sure there's any bad stuff going on in The Devil's Ground. I wish there was some form of ominous symbolism director Michael Bafaro could use to clue me in. It's like, all these fifty million wavering shots of crows sitting around cawing or flapping angrily away is clouding my mind. 'Course the worst thing happening is my desire to exterminate with extreme prejudice every unlikable character in this larcenous shocker.
I say larcenous because The Devil's Ground gets away with so many crimes against genre fans I'm not even sure that I haven't been had. Maybe Bafaro's hick-fear-based, smart-ass-college-kids-get-chased-through-the-woods treat is just a big joke? What do we have, every cliché in the book, bolstered by not one but two urban myths? You bet! The short run-down is this: while driving Maine back-roads late at night Daryl Hannah picks up a bloodied, traumatized stranger who warns that she and her friends have been stalked and slashed by a drooling madman.
Flashbacks tell the rest, like how the horny, obnoxious kids are in an RV on a school archeological trip to dig up an Ancient Indian Burial Ground that's somehow tied in to Coal Mining Troubles and Babies Who Have Been Genetically Mutated by The Man. Yet before they commence to wantonly digging up Native graves unsupervised (more later) they stop to demean and insult the Sweaty, Horny Gas Station Attendant with Two Hooks Where His Hands Should Be. Thing is, he's pretty cute compared to the outrageously irritating college guys (but that's neither here nor there).
This extended set-up suffers from a little thing called 'each character has to straight-off explain his/ her philosophy of life in a few eye-rollingly bad lines so we know they're Real People.' As stupid D-grade polemics about the good and evil of oil fly fast, smart viewers will begin chanting for decapitations - how can these kids stand each other, let alone share a small RV in which they noisily fuck without fear of offending one another?
But it's the kind of movie wherein, back in present time, our traumatized, hungry and dehydrated heroine - who's just seen all her friends slaughtered - can then say to Hannah, "despite our late arrival, and what had happened back at the gas station, everything was going as planned." Nice composure, babe. In fact, these kids are so composed, and this movie so deeply based in torture-the-viewer logic, that after their RV is attacked the kids shout insults into the night and proceed next day to go ahead and dig up bones willy-nilly. Where are the teachers? Where's Tribal oversight? Where's the FBI? And when the bones they dig up start morphing into sinewy things with Rolexes attached, they keep digging for the rest of the day. They can't get killed fast enough if you ask me.
So after about an hour of this it becomes so stupid that for a brief moment I begin to enjoy it, especially the stellar performance of Twan Holliday as Hog/ Tobey/ Jimmy/ Tommy (that's right). That's when cop-out urban legends ruin things again, convoluted improbabilities will make you abuse your forehead with too many slaps, and a cheater's ending robs you of any satisfaction. But hey, what do you expect from The Devil's Ground? Characters actually refer to the area as the devil's playground, but who cares about titular fidelity? Not the director of Titanoc, anyway. Speaking of directors, Bafaro may need to clear something up, since his name is spelled Micheal in both opening and closing credits for Devil's Ground. Maybe he really does spell his name wrong. Maybe the movie really is an elaborate horror gag. The Devil's Ground is, after all, a joint Canada/ Czech Republic production. Do with that information what you will.
Oh yeah, the movie ain't scary either, and those of you looking for gore, keep looking.
This screener copy might not be representative of final product. Certainly retail copies won't have the 'property of Lightning Entertainment' burn-in that keeps popping up. That's a real good way to blunt the impact of your product. I donno, maybe it would be easier to give favorable reviews to movies that weren't equipped with lo-jack? We'll never know, will we? But don't worry, Lightning, I'll recycle this disc so no one else will have to suffer through it. It's also in 16 x 9 widescreen, with stylistically pallid colors and overly ambitious Digital Noise Reduction, making for a sometimes shifty, blurry picture, especially during dramatic chase scenes.
As I'm rocking only stereo speakers with 'surround mode,' and no indication is given on disc, I can only assume this is a digital stereo presentation. Music and shock-cues are mixed very loudly, in relation to often-whispery dialog, so unless you're in your insulated man-cave, keep your hands on the volume bar.
No extras are included on this screener.
It's hard to tell if director Micheal Bafaro has something up his sleeve with this slickly put-together festival of pain. The pain is all for you, viewer, as horror clichés are trotted out with glee, characters are 'horror movie stupid' to an outrageous degree and the hodge-podge plot is a lazy cheat. If small amounts of suspense or splashy gore were thrown about, it would be easier to take the joke. But I'm not sure this is a joke. Bad movie aficionados with an extreme tolerance for pain may get a hoot out of this, however, especially in the company of a bunch of drunk buddies, so we're going to throw out a beneficent Rent It, just for fun.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com