The Devil’s Rock
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 18th September 2011
It’s not easy reviewing one of the NZ Film Commission’s few recipients of funding, in a local industry overrun by hobbits and Hollywood movies capitalising on our world-class crews and low Kiwi dollar. We should celebrate attempts to be innovative.
The Devil’s Rock is one such locally written and made “horror” film – or so it purports to be. There’s certainly a lot of gore and with a story that pits a shapeshifting demon against Nazi soldiers on a remote island, it’s designed to spook. What’s curious is that director Paul Campion, with a long career in visual effects on everything from the LOTR trilogy to Night at the Museum, turns out special effects that are more Bad Taste than The Exorcist.
What’s good is that, unlike your stock low-budget horror movies, the acting is very strong. Matthew Sunderland (who wowed as David Gray in the incredible Out of the Blue) is so utterly engaging in everything he does, I could watch him fold laundry. His gravelly round vowels bring a depth to the bloodstained Nazi whose motivations are dubious.
However, the languid pace undermines attempts at suspense. Perhaps we are overused to jump cuts and CGI, in which case this regression to the old days may provoke nostalgia in some viewers. Others, beware.