ALONG CAME THE DEVIL

Producer: Jason DeVan, Dylan Matlock and Heather DeVan
Director: Jason DeVan
Writer: Jasin DeVan, Dylan Matlock and Heather DeVan
Stars: Sydney Sweeney, Madison Lintz, Jessica Barth, Bruce Davison, Matt Dallas, Heather DeVan, Austin Filson, Kyla Deaver, Lia McHugh and Mark Ashworth
Studio: Gravitas Ventures

D+

This “Devil” might come along to a theatre near you, but rest assured it won’t be around long. Jason DeVan’s exorcism tale is proficient enough technically, but toothless and tedious.

The premise is a simple one: after their mother disappears, Jordan and Ashley (Kyla Deaver and Lia McHugh) are brutalized by their father (Mark Ashworth) and eventually go to live with their aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth). When Jordan leaves for college, Tanya and Ashley (now Sydney Sweeney) return to the girl’s hometown, where she is befriended not only by classmates Hannah (Morgan Lintz) and Shane (Austin Filson), but by John (Mark Dallas), the young pastor at Tanya’s church.

But evil is lurking nearby. When Hannah persuades Ashley, who is having visions of her mother, to try to contact her spirit, a demon enters the picture, and before long possesses the girl. Pastor John and his older colleague Father Michael (Bruce Davison), who has experience with the ritual, perform an exorcism which does not turn out as planned. A supposedly surprising ending closes things on a limp note.

First, the good news. The picture is produced fairly well for a low-budget horror yarn. It’s especially gratifying that cinematographer Justin Duval has shot in a traditional, almost classical, style, eschewing herky-jerky hand-held camera techniques. Most of the effects are decent as well—those involving Ashley climbing up walls are nicely done—although the decision to depict the demon as a horned, man-sized critter, in other words a guy in a devil suit, is hokey.

Though Jason DeVan’s direction is a mite dilatory–a fact accentuated by Evan Ahlgren’s editing, which needlessly prolongs some scenes—it’s generally okay, though he doesn’t draw particularly impressive performances from his cast. Even the veterans are disappointing: Davison seems bored throughout, although he’s meant to appear burned-out, and Dallas (who also served as a co-producer) is stiff and bland. Sweeney tries hard, and in the possession scenes is pretty effective, if no Linda Blair; but in the earlier portion of the movie, when she’s just a normal scared kid, she’s rather awkward. The rest of the cast barely gets by.

Ultimately the fundamental problem with “Along Came the Devil” is that it’s all too familiar. Other recent exorcism pictures have at least tried to give the subject some new spin (almost all unsuccessfully, to be sure), but this one is content to cover well-worn territory with a minimum of imagination. That’s not a winning recipe.

If you’re interested, though, just check out the streaming services. “Devil” will be along there soon, if it isn’t already.