I don’t think many things ruined the field of demonic possession narratives as much as the late franchise-ment of Paranormal Activity. The sub-genre was already pretty kitschy and it came about at a time when “found footage” horror needed some exploration and refining, not a new commercially-focused lease on life. I’m opening here with a bit of a digression because it’s important to contextualize the fact that telling a good possession story is really hard these days (and have been for years) as a result.
“Devil’s Whisper is a promising entry into the space that redeems the story template without trying to do *too much*.”
Devil’s Whisper is a promising entry into the space that redeems the story template without trying to do *too much*. Focusing on a young man, Alejandro (Luca Oriel), who has priestly aspirations, Devil’s Whisper shows us exactly what we shouldn’t do when there’s a weird wooden box in the attic. You can probably guess what happens here, but for the uninitiated: boy opens box, box begets a cross and a bevy of spooky experiences, boy becomes increasingly haunted, family doesn’t understand, contextual plot twist, final confrontation, cliffhanger.
Like I said: it’s an easy template to follow. Devil’s Whisper does so faithfully to keep things on track, and it works–we’re around for the scares, and even more so for the terrible descent of Alejandro. While the acting and segues can feel off at times, Devil’s Whisper makes good on showing how Alejandro falls into devilry; the touch of an entity pushing him off the edge into paranoia, dissociative violence and more. If anything, the tragedy of the story is that the darkness he’s fighting isn’t explicitly demonic in nature.
“I hope it does set an example for how an overwrought sub-genre can be told competently…”
Sure, when you find out, it feels convenient. But, like any good spooky story, Devil’s Whisper roots some of its terrors in real-life darkness that is as ubiquitous as it is often invisible to those who could help. It’s the kind of sound writing that gives the film enough integrity to push through its cheesier moments and keep us watching, ultimately making it worth our time. While it may not be on anyone’s top ten list this year, I hope it does set an example for how an overwrought sub-genre can be told competently without sacrificing the experience in the name of franchise and folly.
Devil’s Whisper (2017) Directed by Adam Ripp. Written by Adam Ripp, Oliver Robins, Paul Todisco. Starring Luca Oriel, Violkys Bustamante, Alison Fernandez, Marcos A. Ferraez, Rick Ravanello, Tessie Santiago.
3 out of 5 Spooky crucifix pendants