July 21, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: DEVIL'S DOMAIN

Starring Madi Vodane, Linda Bella, Michael Madsen, Kelly Erin Decker, Benna Tucker, The Onyx. Directed by Jared Cohn. (2016, 93 min).

Since there's nothing new under the sun, modern horror directors are challenged to put a creative spin on familiar material to justify their movie's existence. That challenge is even more daunting when strapped with limited financial resources. With Devil's Domain, writer/director Jared Cohn appears up for it, but sometimes falls victim to his own budget and narrative inconsistencies.

The movie is a modern take on the reliable old deal-with-the-devil tale. Lisa (Madi Vodane) is an insecure, bulimic teenager who becomes a cyber-bullying victim after coming out as a lesbian to her best friend, Rhonda. Another trusted friend, Andrew, shoots hidden video of Lisa purging & masturbating, then posts it on the internet. A complete pariah at school and misunderstood at home, she contemplates suicide before receiving an online message from Destiny (Linda Bella), a sexy incarnation of Satan. Destiny offers to help Lisa get even with everyone who's wronged her in exchange for...well, not to give anything away, but I suspect Cohn is a big fan of Rosemary's Baby.

The whole revenge-through-Satan thing is nothing new, though using it to address - however superficially - the issue of cyber-bullying gives the story a timely twist. However, since Destiny and her minions begin slaughtering Lisa's tormentors before any deal is even made, why is this Satanic pact even necessary?

"Guys...I burnt my marshmallow."
Maybe Cohn wants to get to the sex & death before his audience gets bored with exposition. Fair enough. There's plenty of gonzo gore, with special effects which range from decent to silly. Bella certainly makes a hot-looking Satan worth selling one's soul for, but the demon she sometimes morphs into resembles the work of Face-Off contestants. And despite numerous scenes which tease the viewer into anticipating a few sleazy encounters, aside from Bella's revealing outfits and some titillating spit-swapping, those seeking carnal thrills will probably be disappointed. This is grindhouse without the grind.

Still, there's an earnestness to the proceedings that's sort of charming. Cohn & company display an appreciable amount of creativity with an obviously limited budget, some of which must have gone to secure the services of Michael Madsen, the only recognizable name in the cast. Speaking of which, the performances, while nothing exemplary, are certainly adequate for the material.

While the overall tone is a bit too serious for its own good, and not even remotely scary, Devil's Domain manages to mine a fair bit of fun from an overused premise. It's all been done better - and smarter - but at least it isn't boring.


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