The Devil’s Well

The makers of The Devil’s Well have tried to scare audiences despite the fact that they don’t have the money for high-end effects. Fortunately for writer-director Kurtis Spieler, the problems with this movie have little to do with cash flow.

The Devil’s Well follows in the well-worn footsteps of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. It’s easy to excuse the homemade look of the new movie. After all, nobody would believe a slick, well-shot film was “found footage” from a supernatural event.

That said, it’s also hard to get chills from a movie that slavishly follows the template of earlier movies. The paranormal investigators in this film seem less like scientists and more like cattle stampeding into a slaughterhouse. As red flags appear, these folks single-mindedly pursue Darwin Awards by ignoring every sign of danger.

“…wife Karla disappeared a year ago as she tried to discover if the well is a doorway to Hell.

At least Bryan Marks (Bryan Manley Davis) has an excuse for examining an abandoned well at the bottom of an empty warehouse in New England. His wife Karla (Anne-Marie Mueschke) disappeared a year ago as she tried to discover if the well is indeed a doorway to Hell. Several locals, including Bryan’s in-laws, think he murdered her. Discovering either Karla or her fate would be helpful in clearing his name.

Now that others have made faux found footage films, there isn’t any point in guessing what happens once Bryan and the team of ghost hunters make their way to the well. The Devil’s Well instantly relieves insomnia because it loses its audience before the quest can even begin.

The first half of the movie is loaded with “talking head” footage that simply fills time until the search actually begins. Little of the babbling sets up what follows. Spieler introduces so many characters who won’t matter later that I wanted to pick them off with Chekhov’s Gun.

“…a storyline that never becomes undead, much less alive.

In most of these flicks, white noise and low moans try to make dramatic footage pass for a documentary. Here they litter the film to compensate for a storyline that never becomes undead, much less alive. In addition, The Devil’s Well actually features a musical score that blares every time a character is about to join the damned. It’s almost as if a band was accompanying the camera operator around the basement. It’s also difficult to pass off ordinary static as voices from the beyond.

It was refreshing that Spieler and company filmed The Devil’s Well in Connecticut and didn’t try to pass off the film as coming from anywhere else. It’s great to hear unmannered regional accents and to see unfamiliar faces. Recognizable faces would have made the movie unwatchable because they would have taken viewers out of the already fragile story.

Speaking of familiar sights, the poster for The Devil’s Well features shafts of light that resemble the logo for The Blair Witch Project and a girl rising from a well the way Daveigh Chase did in The Ring. If the makers of this film wanted to avoid comparisons with earlier offerings, it would have been a great idea not to put reminders in the damn poster.

The Devil’s Well (2018) Directed by Kurtis Spieler. Written by Kurtis Spieler. Starring Bryan Manley Davis, Chris Viemeister, David Alexander, Kristen Seavey, Jon Gregory, Lauren Sowa,  Kurtis Spieler, Anne-Marie Mueschke, Robert Riggs, Lisa Meckes.

Rating: 2/10

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