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Review: ‘At The Devil’s Door’ fails to breach the threshold of scares

At The Devil's Door

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At The Devil’s Door, as many films that focus on possession are wont to do, often feels like an exercise in waiting for the inevitable. The film, which stars Naya Rivera (Glee) in her first film role and features Ashley Rickards of Awkward. fame, is the second feature length effort from writer-director Nicholas McCarthy. When a young real estate agent agrees to sell a home with a checkered past she inadvertently embroils herself and her sister (Rivera) in a web of supernatural activity being spun by a sinister force. McCarthy’s take on this oft-trod horror plot is nevertheless, a creative one that may deliver chills and thrills for some when it arrives on Video On Demand on Aug. 8, before expanding to select theaters on Sept. 12.

Poster art for 'At The Devil's Door'
Poster art for 'At The Devil's Door'
Courtesy of: IFC Films

All the trappings of devil and demon tales of terror are here, an illicit and ill-advised deal, a slow reveal, an act that reveals the horror within, unsettlingly staring evil children, birth where no pregnancy should exist, creeping shadows, in short, the whole enchilada. McCarthy does arrange these near-ubiquitous genre elements in a reasonably fresh way and thereby instills some real suspense into the proceedings. Unfortunately, that feeling of suspense doesn’t stretch to scares.

Those who are particularly unsettled by this brand of horror may disagree, but anyone with a natural inclination toward skepticism or a thirst for a sense of something that could happen in their theatrical chillers will find nothing to startle them here anymore than they would in films of similar ilk. But, that’s not to say that it cannot be done. In addressing his own natural skepticism Oculus director and co-writer Mike Flanagan managed to make a film about a haunted mirror with the kind of logic that can unsettle even those who normally snort their way through horror flicks. McCarthy has proved himself a capable storyteller, he just hasn’t yet found a way to put the fear into a broad audience.

Though ambitious, and ultimately fun to watch for the horror aficionado, At The Devil’s Door doesn’t delight with fright. This film knows its genre, and with varied levels of success attempts to refresh classic genre elements, but fails to live up to the ultimate goal of said genre.