Historical examples abound of music potentially being utilized as a means to channel evil forces. In the 1980s, we had the Satanic Panic, a period when thrash metal bands like Slayer and even less demonstrably sinister bands like Twisted Sister garnered the ire of Tipper Gore and other square politicians. Even further back in history, we have (likely exaggerated) claims of the tritone being associated with the Devil. Enter director LL Gaddy III with his horror flick Invite the Devil To Come and Play, an entertaining foray into a world of experimental music and murder.
Oliver (Carlton Wilson) is your standard starving artist, using his job at a local security company to pay the bills while he pursues his interest in composing and performing eclectic music. His music is definitely not for everyone, but his partner, Elise (Elicia Moore), and best friend, Gary (Dustin Vanhoose), give Oliver the support he needs as he pursues his obsessive hobby. Unbeknownst to Oliver, his late-night jam sessions begin to inspire gruesome murders at the hands of occult forces. Is his music driving evil forces to commit murder, or is something else at play?
While Invite the Devil To Come and Play is firmly rooted in the horror vein, Gaddy III and screenwriter Charles E. Brown make sure to keep it fun throughout. Wilson is excellent as Oliver, reminding the audience of those uncompromising artists we knew from college who stubbornly cling to their hopes of artistic recognition well into middle age. For this reviewer, though, Vanhoose’s performance as Gary is the most effective and memorable element. Imagine if Dale Gribble from King of the Hill was twenty years younger and worked at a security company. That is a pretty accurate idea as to the role that Gary plays against the relatively buttoned-down Oliver.
“…his late-night jam sessions begin to inspire gruesome murders at the hands of occult forces.”
The music is important, though I found it slightly grating at first as it’s mechanical and somewhat discordant. But the soundtrack begins to grow on you as it helps establish a creepy atmosphere predicated upon Oliver’s music as a sinister force. And it has to be said that this is a great concept for a horror film. The high-minded potential of Brown’s script makes it hard to avoid wishing that this was optioned for a future production with more substantial resources.
The story’s rhythm is generally smooth, but there’s some definite bloat to the movie that is detrimental to its cohesion. The character of Upper Management (Lee O. Smith) and his entire subplot at the soulless security corporation feels unnecessary to the overall progression, and it takes away from Oliver and his mysterious music. Even so, we rarely get independent horror with this level of ingenuity.
Just when you think there’s nowhere left to go within the slasher genre writ large, Invite the Devil To Come and Play reminds us that with a clever tweak or two, there’s still something to say within the genre. At the very least, this horror tale might make musicians think twice before they strum their next power cord.
"…we rarely get independent horror with this level of ingenuity."