The Movie Waffler First Look Review - THE DEVIL TO PAY | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

First Look Review - THE DEVIL TO PAY

the devil to pay review
When her husband disappears, an Appalachian farmer is forced to repay his debt to a local criminal family.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye

Starring: Danielle Deadwyler, Catherine Dyer, Jayson Warner Smith, Brad Carter, Luce Rains

the devil to pay poster



"In the 18th century," the words on the screen tell us, "those escaping oppression sought refuge in the Appalachians. Their descendants still occupy the mountain, self-sustaining and self-governing."

In a cosy rustic home a young woman, Lemon (Danielle Deadwyler), tucks her son Coy into bed. He asks for his daddy, and she says daddy is off "gallivanting," but he always comes home.

We see a tough but happy life the next morning as they do chores, eat, and play with their pet goat. She tells a story about how you earn things in life if you are honest and hardworking. It’s all tyre swings, golden sunlight, jaunty music and a full immersion into the world of these isolated mountain folk.

the devil to pay review

Two intimidating men arrive at her door and insist on coming inside. They tell her she needs to leave her son in their care while she goes to see the Runion family matriarch, Tommy, who runs the small Appalachian community. Unfortunately Lemon’s wayward husband has her truck, so she departs on foot, spying a human ear nailed to a tree on the outskirts of the Runion homestead as she enters it.

Tommy Runion is all country woman charm, making biscuits for the boys as she welcomes our protagonist into her kitchen. It seems the Runion family provides the mountain-folk with power and they pay her for the privilege. Lemon's lost husband owes a debt and they intend to collect from the possibly-newly single mum and her boy.


Tommy’s threats are chilling: "Pay up or I’ll murder your boy and bury you alive next to him," she purrs in between culinary tips for the southern cook.

Borrowing a car from the local store owner Grady, Lemon begins the trip to try to find her husband, or money, or both. On the way she runs into a backwoods cult that like to prove their faith with painful ceremonies; their chants of "back to the ether" taking on a more unsettling edge as you realise they are not above committing smiling-faced murder as some sort of spiritual release.

the devil to pay review

When Lemon discovers the path of her husband it resolves nothing and just lands her in more hot water; not to mention unearthing grievances and feuds thought resolved. Lemon finds she has been manipulated into a scapegoat position she has no way of fighting except with cunning and violence.


Written and directed by husband and wife team Lane and Ruckus Skye in their feature film debut, this is impressive stuff. A clever and engrossing plot that takes place in a fully realised and fascinating world. The gorgeous Georgian mountains are shot with reverence and affection by Sherman Johnson and the fine work by production designer and art directors Jesse Kray and Susan Neal is beautifully textured and intricate.

The film is accompanied by a jangly bluegrass soundtrack composed by Brad Carter that’s as much a part of this movie's blueprint as the southern accents and the impenetrable locale.

the devil to pay review

The acting is mostly very fine, with Catherine Dyer suitably repellent as Tommy Runion, but the central performance by Deadwyler (Watchmen) is nothing short of revelatory. She is raw, impassioned, brave, believable, tough and still vulnerable and sympathetic. You cannot take your eyes off her wonderfully expressive face - this performance deserves awards recognition.

The moments of shocking violence, or at least the after effects of them, are sudden and unexpected, blood curdling in their banality. But this is a world of truces and traditions, family and long generations of kin. This is a world where blood feuds are real things and people die over the loss of a tree somebody's granddaddy planted decades ago. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Immerse yourself in this wonderful film. You’ll be glad you did.

The Devil to Pay is on US VOD/DVD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.


2020 movie reviews