Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Devil's Music (2008)

As a horror fan, you are probably well aware that the mainstream loves to point fingers at our genre whenever a tragic, violent act (like a school shooting, etc.) occurs in which the perpetrator happened to own some horror DVDs. The media is quick to assume that those films adversely affected the individual and caused them to act out violently, placing blame squarely on the filmmakers. I also find it pretty insulting when other people label a person as a deviant capable of committing heinous acts just because they happen to enjoy horror movies.

The same misconceptions are often held against people that listen to metal music. Recently, the House of Blues in Anaheim, California (which happens to sit right across from Disneyland) abruptly canceled all their metal shows and banned any future shows with metal bands. Sure, rap and punk bands can still play there, but they didn’t like the type of crowd that the metal shows were drawing, especially with the proximity of the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

The point is, fans of both horror films and metal music face some serious biases and mistaken assumptions from those outside the respective communities. The film The Devil’s Music manages to tackle this issue in regards to each medium, while doing so in an entirely creative, faux rockumentary way.

The film is about Erika Spawn (Victoria Hopkins), lead singer behind the shock-rock band named after her. The band was shooting to stardom with its explicit lyrics and gory stage shows, but it drew ire from many concerned parents and the “moral majority” in England. These people insist that the band is corrupting the youth. Still, despite the controversy surrounding the band, it continued gaining popularity.

Against the gory backdrop of Erika Spawn, we are introduced to sappy crooner Robin Harris (Scott Thomas), who is the complete opposite of Erika Spawn and vied with the band for the top of the charts. Yet, we find out later in the documentary that Harris is inexplicably linked to Erika by a groupie the band takes on tour with them.

One night after a show, this groupie, named Stef Regan (Lucy Dunn) found her way backstage. Erika took a liking to her and brought the young girl on tour. Everyone agreed the teen was a bit strange, but Erika really liked her so she stayed…and would later contribute to Erika’s mysterious disappearance.

The Devil’s Music is shot like a rockumentary and in interview segments we are introduced to Erika’s band mates, the brash Adele Black (Jess-Luisa Flynn) and the mellow ZC (Alan Ronald), as well as the band’s manager Eddie Meachum (Cy Henty) and others. We are shown television spots with Erika as well as concert and backstage footage. We are never told the whole story up front, but rather tension is created by not knowing exactly where the story is going.

I am familiar with Jinx Media and thoroughly enjoyed their last film, KillerKiller, but I believe that The Devil’s Music is even better and really showcases writer/director Pat Higgins’ talents! Everything, from the clever way the film was presented to the stellar acting from all of the actors, was top notch and really shows how far Pat Higgins has come as both a writer and a director.

First, the documentary style of the film is flawless. It’s hard to pull off an effective documentary, but Higgins does indeed succeed with The Devil’s Music! From the opening statements by the band’s manager to the mysterious “shadow footage” played at the end, I was hooked all the way through! The interviews and the concert/backstage footage flowed perfectly together and it really does look like a real rockumentary you might see on FUSE, MTV or VH1!

As for the story, it unfolds in a very effective, yet mysterious manner. When the film first begins, you don’t have the whole story of Erika Spawn and only have an ominous feeling that something is going to befall her. As the film progresses, we are given hints as to Erika’s fate, but it’s not until close to the end where everything is revealed and things take a turn for the violent and supernatural (this IS a horror movie!)! I’ll stop there, because this is a film that works better going in cold, so I don’t want to give too much away!

Another aspect that assists this film in its awesomeness is the acting. Every single one of the actors does a fantastic job and there isn’t a weak one in the bunch. I really enjoyed seeing Cy Henty as the manager as he’s been in other Pat Higgins’ films. Victoria Hopkins was marvelous as Erika Spawn and completely sold me on her character. She was a complete rock star and I don’t doubt for a minute that she could fill arenas with fans. I wish Erika Spawn was a real band that I could go see! Also, Jess-Luisa Flynn was amazing as the smack-talking, rude, “realist” Adele Black. I loved every second she was on-screen! Lucy Dunn was great as groupie Stef Regan. Her performance made you both revile and pity her character.

Like mentioned in the slight diatribe in the first few paragraphs, I enjoyed how the film made you question preconceived notions about certain people (namely people who enjoy a good, bloody show like you or me). Not everyone that wears black, listens to metal or watches horror movies is guaranteed to be dangerous or want to kill others. The film really turns the tables on this silly stereotype for a very satisfying conclusion.
Jinx Media will release The Devil’s Music in the UK on March 30, 2008, but you may also be able to find it making the rounds on the festival circuit. If you are able to catch this film, you’re in for a wickedly thrilling treat!

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