The Movie Waffler IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY | The Movie Waffler

IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY

the devil's doorway review
In 1960, two priests are sent to investigate a miracle at a Magdalene laundry in rural Ireland.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Aislinn Clarke

Starring: Lalor Roddy, Ciaran Flynn, Helena Bereen, Lauren Coe, Dearbhail Lynch

the devil's doorway poster

The Catholic church has had its share of scandals in recent years. One of the most shocking revelations was the discovery of the remains of hundreds of dead infants at a mother and baby home run by nuns in rural Ireland. In somewhat distasteful fashion, director Aislinn Clarke appropriates the case to form the foundation of her found footage horror movie, The Devil's Doorway.

In 1960, a pair of priests, the elderly Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) and the youthful Father John (Ciaran Flynn), are sent to a home for "fallen women" in rural Ireland to investigate claims of the miraculous occurrence of a statue of the Virgin Mary appearing to bleed from the eyes.

the devil's doorway review

Having spent the last 25 years conducting such investigations and never finding proof of any otherworldly forces at play, Thomas has grown cynical and assumes he will find this latest "miracle" the work of yet another attention seeking trickster. John has more of an open mind, and his beliefs in the supernatural are compounded when he is woken at night by the sound of children playing. Thomas however claims to have heard no such thing, and the following night remains as disbelieving when John encounters a ghostly young child playing with a doll at the bottom of the stairs.

As the two men's investigation deepens, it becomes apparent that a higher power is indeed at work in the institution, but it seems more likely it's the work of Old Nick than the man above, and the Mother Superior seems somehow involved with its malevolence.

the devil's doorway review

Clarke adopts a found footage approach for her tale, but there's little in the narrative that really justifies adopting this format, and as is so often the case, much potential for suspense is lost by viewing events solely through the eyes of the protagonist rather than being clued in on information they don't possess. To put it reductively, we never get to scream "he/she/it's behind you!" because we can only ever see a few feet ahead of the protagonist.

Clarke's footage is doctored to give the grainy appearance of 8mm film stock, and cinematographer Ryan Kernaghan does a good job of replicating the functional look of the sort of educational films I had to endure back in Catholic school. The use of film rather than video conveniently removes that question of why a character doesn't play back the footage they've shot to convince a doubter. John captures some crazy goings on with his camera, but with no way of processing his film, he can't show it to Thomas.

the devil's doorway review

The Devil's Doorway is strongest in its opening half when we're getting to know the two priests and their disparate attitudes to their chosen profession, and when the supernatural nature of the institution is kept ambiguous. In the movie's back end things take a turn toward Conjuring/Insidious style histrionics, and it becomes indistinguishable from its rivals in the crowded found footage horror market.

What's most disturbing - particularly for Irish viewers all too familiar with the real life horrors of the Catholic church - is the film's implication that its evil nuns are working in service of Satan. Those hundreds of dead babies aren't the result of any Satanic practices, and those responsible would readily admit they believed they were doing the work of the Lord, not the Devil.

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