The plot of ‘Twas The Devil borrows from several films, including Django (the original 1966 spaghetti Western), and The Reckoning (the 2002 Paul Bettany-starring masterpiece), while indulging in the hallucinatory imagery of David Lynch. I do not know if those titles’ influences were consciously at the forefront of writer-director Mark Garvey’s mind when making this dramatic-horror tale or if they come from a well-rounded cinema diet. Do these influences mean ‘Twas The Devil is just a pale imitation, or does it use them to form something original?
Zachary (Simon Clearly) accused his wife, Agnes (Mairead Fitzpatrick), of being a witch. She was cleared of all charges but paid with her life. Racked with guilt, Zachary is taking his wife’s coffin to her hometown to be given a proper burial there. Along the way, he meets several people who are not as sound of mind as Zachary’s precarious grasp on sanity needs. As visions of his deceased wife plague him and nightmares haunt him, Zachary goes increasingly mad. Will he make it to his destination and find peace? Or will his guilt destroy him from the inside out?
“Racked with guilt, Zachary is taking his wife’s coffin to her hometown to be given a proper burial…”
I watched ‘Twas The Devil twice before sitting down to write this review. Why? Because this is a “choose-your-own-folktale” film. At the end of segments ranging from 4-minutes to roughly 13-minutes long, the viewer must interact with the film and make decisions on Zachary’s behalf. The first choice is to decide whether or not to give a lady with a disease, Mary (Rachel Cuthill), some money or not. Other options include straying from the path at the behest of a vision of Agnes, accepting bread from a man who has decided to die, and conversing with someone or continuing on the journey. They are by no means the only choices available, but just an example of how one interacts with the film. It should be noted that certain events happened, slightly rearranged, both times for me, though I did receive two different endings.
The first sentence in the above paragraph should give readers a clue as to my feelings on Garvey’s creation. If my first viewing was dull or not engaging enough, what would a second watch do? The director, who edited and served as director of photography, ably creates a foreboding atmosphere, where Zachary’s grief and pain, and indeed, all the characters he meets along the way, is palpable to the viewer. From Dutch angles to extreme close-ups, the filmmaker never allows the audience to get comfortable or feel complacent. This ensures that the strangeness of the people on the road and the unnerving story are front and center. That is where the eerieness of ‘Twas The Devil lies, and by focusing on them, the cast and crew overcome the production issues.
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