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Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Device (2014) - The October people nail it again.

The preamble (meandering section)

When John Portanova contacted me last week to ask whether I would be interested in watching and reviewing the latest film he was involved with, The Device, well I didn't need to be asked twice. This was because of four very important reasons. The first being that the previous offering from The October people, a shadowy sounding named film production company from Seattle that he is part of, was quite simply, a wonderful cinematic experience. In fact, thinking about it, it brings to mind a rather beautifully written review that was produced at the time.....

The Invoking is a "wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It's not just a good film, it is simply excellent." .............. wow, just wow. Fine writing indeed.

The fact that it is actually my very own quote from my very own blog review is purely a matter of coincidence - I remain as ever, ahem, objective to the end. 

Which brings me onto the second reason why I was keen to watch the follow up film from The October People. Namely the fact that John kindly (or cleverly) also said that the reason he wanted me to see this film was because he had enjoyed my review of The Invoking so much. In other words, he probably was of the opinion that it was close to being the finest film review that he had ever seen........ Well OK, maybe he didn't go that far, but in my mind that's what I heard. And as anyone who knows me well enough would agree, butter me up with enough words of praise then I'm anybody's. I may be shallow but at least I'm consistent.

The third and (you'll no doubt be glad to know) penultimate reason for accepting Johns effusive request was down to the subject matter of The Device, namely a good old alien abduction story - and again, to anybody who would admit to knowing me well, would agree that the X-Files obsessive in me loves nothing more than a nice alien abduction and with it, human probing story - as it were.

So once again I found myself in the situation of having a super-secret online link sent to me for a super-secret online location where I would be able to watch a super-secret sneak preview of the movie in question. This would be the fourth and final reason for my acceptance, because for a blogger there is nothing more exciting (well, legally speaking) than to be able to gain access to a brand new feature way before the general public are able to. If nothing else, It helps feed my rampant shallowness and feeling of general superiority.

The actual review thingy bit.....

The synopsis of a The Device is;
Nice view....and, ahem, the scenery is nice too.
"Abby and Rebecca Powell haven’t seen each other since a traumatic event in their youth ripped them apart. Reunited for the first time in over a decade, the sisters take a trip to spread their mother’s ashes at a secluded lake. As the sisters reconnect and try to heal old wounds, something waits in the nearby woods. A strange object, made not by the hands of man, beckons them to it. As they begin to try to unlock its secrets, Abby is plagued by nightmares of an alien presence that seem all too real. Little do the sisters realise that this object is actually a device, one with a purpose too horrible to comprehend. As the events of the past and the present begin to merge, new discoveries will threaten to tear apart their newly reformed family, and the inhuman creators of the device will attempt to finish a terrible experiment begun years before."

To begin with, without consulting my overworked legal team I couldn't possibly comment on the rumour that one of the main reasons that I enjoyed this film so much was because I am just a little smitten with Kate Alden (Rebecca).

I haven't read any other reviews of The Device as yet, in fact I probably never will as I regard other write-ups as either being so badly written that make them unbearably embarrassing to read, or that they are far better than my efforts at scribbling - either way, the result doesn't exactly make me happy. However, if  I was to read some, I would bet most of the money I have in the world (don't get excited, it's not a lot) that reference would be made to the makers of this movie not only having been heavily influenced by the X-Files but also consciously channelled some of the distinct pacing and atmosphere of the classic television series. That's not to say that this film lacks any sense of originality and thrills, because it doesn't. In actual fact is a deliciously atmospheric and, in parts, genuinely chilling.

David thrills the crew with his 'now you see it, now you don't' magic trick
The most effective of any episode of the X-Files for me were the ones where the special effects and technology played second fiddle to fine tuned direction, dialogue, emotional involvment and most importantly, the plot concept. Good science fiction is all about the idea, and even the most basic of which in terms of budget, if well executed, can produce the most satisfying of cinematic results.

The Device is the embodiment of doing a huge amount with a relatively constrained budget, a concept that took place with Director Jeremy Bergs previous offering, the wonderful The Invoking. It therefore no surprise at all that The Device and The Invoking share similar styles and pacing - a slow burning atmospheric start with plenty of well acted characterisation that in turn develops a genuine empathy towards the key figures until we find ourselves in the midst of a creepy and thrilling climax.

The relationship between the two female leads, Angela DiMarco (Abby) and Kate-gorgeous-Alden (Rebecca) is the emotional cornerstone which provides the true soul of the film - and both are utter convincing as the two sisters whose connection was torn apart in the aftermath of the violent end to Rebecca's relationship with her then boyfriend.

" I don't know how it happened Sis, but I 
seem to have glued my hand to my shoulder".
Yes, Kate Alden is suitably fabulous as the sister tortured by memories of a hidden past, as well as being rather excellent to look at, though more importantly (in terms of potential thoughts she may have in regard to instigating a restraining order) the acting talent is most definately there for all to see. In all seriousness, she is fabulous in the role. Angela DiMarco too is excellent in her part of the other sister tormented by particular memories and experiences of her own. However, I will refrain from commenting on her looks as her real life partner, David S. Hogan also plays her onscreen husband - and if he plays bat-shit crazy off-screen as well as he does in the movie then I may well be a marked man. On a serious note, he plays his part solidly and very well - the scene where he is receiving 'messages' from certain other worldly figures is for me possibly one of the best in in the film. Nicely played Sir, indeed.

As far as I'm concerned, any self respecting Sci-Fi or horror film would not be complete without a nod or two to some familiar genre conventions. For example, we have the classic case of hearing some strange noise in the night, then walking down into the cellar/basement whilst politely asking "Is anybody there?". Then there is the true to form finding of some strange unknown artifact in the woods and then taking it home to examine/forget about in a drawer/sell for lots of money. In The Device, I am glad to say we have both with one or two nicely played moments of 'Who's down there?", which I always love - particularly when I think that in real life the more likely scenario (in my case at least) would be far more accurately an 'I don't give a toss who's down there  - I'm scarpering as far as I can and getting the hell out of here". In other words, I would no doubt leave some other member of the family to face the music and ask the stupid question. After all, I still have so much to live for, right?

In this film it is the second of those big SciFi movie plot no-no's, the finding of the strange unknown object and then keeping it, that provides the cornerstone of the plot. I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that if i was to chance upon what looked like some sort of crash site in the middle of nowhere and then found a totally other-worldly looking object my first thought would be to contact the authorities (after taking a few pics on my iPhone, naturally). Does this happen in the movies? - never! Do movie land people not know that you never ever trust strange objects you find - whether they be metallic spherical figures or board games called Jumangi!!

Angela loses again in the 'make a rabbit shape silhouette' competition
Thankfully - because that would probably make for a very boring and short film I suppose, in The Device they choose the irrational option - hurrah!. So as soon as Abby is persuaded  by her husband Calvin (David S. Hogan) that wealth and more could be theirs if they sell this strange spherical object then we know that there may very well be trouble ahead..... and oh baby, there is.

As I mentioned earlier, the makers of The Device won't be able to escape the inevitable comparisons to the X-Files - however, that is something I sincerely intend to be a compliment. As in the very best episodes of that seminal TV series, the emphasis was often on exploring the psychological and emotional effects of Alien abduction of the characters.  Often, productions that feature the theme of extra-terrestrial 'snatch & cavity searches' far too often spend an excessive amount of time and money on the abduction part only. And while that part of the process can indeed have it's chilling charms, for me the more interesting aspects of the act would always be the consequences it would have on both those involved and their loved ones - Put it this way, If I was to tell my wife that I was frequently being abducted and violated by aliens she might not take it too well, actually, she would probably be on the phone to my doctor, her doctor and her lawyer faster than you could say Holy Flying Saucers, Batman!

"Excuse me, has anybody seen my probing tool?"
So in the same way that The Invoking provided an intelligent take on satanic possession and cabin-in-the-woods murder, The Device does the same thing in regard to alien abduction, and (whether real or not) the scars, both physically and emotionally, that the experience would inevitably leave upon an individual.

So once again I'm full of admiration for the likes of Jeremy Berg, John Portanova and the rest of the production team for their willingness to take a chance in disregarding the expectations of sections of a genre film audience that have been raised on a contemporary diet of blood, guts and CGI infused SciFi  mayhem. And while there is undounbtably a place for big budget SFX, I applaud the fact that instead of trying to hide their low budget productions they instead use the lack of finance instead to focus on what often really matters within these genre's. In essence, to provide not just intelligent and sophisticated science fiction or horror plots, but also to add enough genuine chills and thrills along the way. Some of us (obviously not me though) have brains and occasionally like to think about what we are watching. This is a film well worth watching.

So the next time you find a strange metallic object (spherical or not) in some deserted woods, hear strange unworldly noises in your basement, see a tall gangly stranger surrounded by a bright light in your bedroom while your partner starts to go as crazy as a box of Frogs - well I suggest that you get out of Dodge straight away.

The Device will be released in the US on DVD & VOD by Image Entertainment on December 16th, just a couple of months away. However in the meantime it will be taking to the festival circuit very soon. As yet, the most important release - the UK one - is yet to be confirmed, but at this stage it looks like some point in 2015. 

The film will be having its world premiere on September 27th at the 2014 Local Sightings Film Festival in Seattle,WA (http://localsightings.nwfilmforum.org/)

It will then screen at the 2014 Tacoma Film Festival on October 14th (http://www.tacomafilmfestival.com/)

More information can be found on the film's IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3593120/ 

You can find The Device on Twitter via the following link twitter.com/thedevicefilm

The Device can be found on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/thedevicefilm?fref=ts

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