Where Lobo happens to be less successful is writing dialogue. The film often skirts dangerously close to becoming a parody of itself. All three leads struggle with cringe-inducing lines: “Something’s wrong with Steve”; “Our only option is to remain very still”; “Impulsive decisions can go really wrong”; “This is not about us – this is about everything else!” – and so on.
“…terrifying finale, with its disturbing revelation, by itself makes the somewhat-bumpy ride preceding it worth taking…”
Lobo also applies off-kilter touches that seemingly go nowhere – Matt’s bleeding nose, static images of supposedly familiar faces on TV – which confused me, unless, of course, I missed some crucial message the filmmaker is trying to convey. If that’s the case, Ben Lovett’s screeching score deafened me to that sort of subtlety. There are prolonged scenes of nothing happening, characters wandering or sitting around the house, making it all feel like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone.
Silly and scary, atmospheric and disjointed, I Trapped the Devil showcases Lobo’s affection for the genre. He wisely avoids falling into the “gore” trap, instead relying on characterization and our fear of the unknown to raise the hair on the back of your neck. I’m excited to see him hone his skills and unleash all hell upon us next.
I Trapped the Devil (2019) Written and Directed by Josh Lobo. Starring AJ Bowen, Scott Poythress, Susan Burke, Jocelin Donahue, Chris Sullivan.
6 out of 10