by Nav Qateel
From first-time director Joseph O'Brien, Devil's Mile tells the story of three crooks with two kidnapped girls in the trunk of their car. The trio are on their way to hand off the two young women to their boss, but after getting lost and then accidentally killing one of the captives, they find themselves trapped in a deadly nightmare they can't escape from.
Joseph O'Brien's screenplay was peppered with snappy dialogue and some nice twists, and the direction showed touches of flare. However, the film occasionally suffered from uneven moments, particularly during the final act, where the movie felt almost rudderless. Fortunately O'Brien managed to reign the complicated story in, and delivered a fantastic finale that should keep genre fans happy.
David Hayter plays Toby McTeague, the first of our trio of criminals. Toby has an attitude problem and a very short fuse, as witnessed when he decides to "borrow" a map from a store owner he comes across. You also don't want to be on the wrong end of his mean three-count, because if Toby reaches that magical number, you face imminent death. Keep an eye out for the tattoo on Toby's neck, which I thought was a nice bit of detail. Hayter really chewed through his scenes, and listening to him bicker with Jacinta was a blast. The dialogue Casey Hudecki and Hayter shared really had me laughing hard, and whose scenes I thought were well written by O'Brien.
Stuntwoman and actress Casey Hudecki is the least experienced out of the trio yet her character had the most to do, not the least of which was to hang upside down while being beaten up. Jacinta is the newest member of the team and as such, isn't completely trusted by Toby. On a number of occasions Cally had to stop Toby from being violent towards Jacinta, which included one of his deadly three-counts.
Cally is played by the talented Maria del Mar, who I saw recently in an episode of the brilliant TV show Hannibal. Cally is very defensive of Jacinta but the reason for this is never fully explored. The acting by our three main protagonists was good with Casey Hudecki getting a chance to shine. Playing the two unfortunate kidnapped girls--who spend a lot of their time in the trunk--is Samantha Wan and Shara Kim. Coincidently, like Hudecki, Kim is also a stunt-woman (or should I be saying "stunt-person"?). Early on we learn one of the girls kidnapped is the wrong target, and this is only the start of a long list of problems the group face.
During a stop to get their bearings, Cally makes a call and speaks to their mysterious boss. It's here Cally finds out Kanako (Wan) wasn't who they were supposed to snatch and we also learn a little more about the creepy and very dangerous Mr. Arkadi. Arkadi is played by veteran actor Frank Moore, with Moore giving a great performance that put me very much in mind of Marlon Brando's Colonel Walter E. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
I'm a big fan of Asian horror so it was a huge bonus witnessing the excellent and scary CGI ghost, plus the supernatural element of the variety I'm used to seeing in a lot of modern Japanese horror. As well as the apparent Asian influence, there is a nice blend of genres in Devil's Mile but to say too much here would be giving away the big reveal.
While some of the film felt a little rushed and a bit rough around the edges, for a first movie done on a budget, I was most impressed by what O'Brien and his team have achieved. Additionally, I found the performances good and I really enjoyed the complicated story with all its twists and turns. All I expect from any film is to be kept entertained for its duration, and Devil's Mile managed to do just that.
Screener supplied by PHASE4FILMSShare: