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#21, October 11, 2015


I just saw another fun cheesy horror flick and wrote a review, so of course I have to share it with you. This movie is a 2015 spook ride called Devil's Backbone, Texas.


This flick starts out looking like yet another hand-held video camera "documentary," another what-really-happened-to-my-dead-parent/ancestor story, another the-old-recluse-in-the-boonies plot, but I was pleasantly surprised—it's all of that, sure, but it's good! As the character Janine (Annie Potts) yells in the original Ghostbusters, "We got one!!"


Okay, so I'm cynical, but thanks to Blair Witch, horror films have been plunged into an endless stream of thinly-plotted shaky-camera wastes of time. But Devil's Backbone, Texas is a fun watch, honest!


1) The script is solid. It's not so much a high-tension thrills-a-minute ride as a subtle haunting tale, a slow series of inexplicable reveals rather like a Texas version of an H.P. Lovecraft story. (Good old H.P. His stuff has become so popular in the last few years. Go, Cthulhu!) Anyway, there's true mystery in the events, and you care about how it affects the characters. Most importantly, the lead character is a real person, not just a screaming victim. The dialog is well written, not something you find in many horror films today. Bless you, writer/director Jake Wade Wall! (I usually don't think much of films that are written and directed by the same person. Too often these auteurs lose perspective on their own work and deliver 90 minutes of mush. But Wall's got his act together on this one.  *sniffle*  I'm so proud of him!)


2) The direction is good (see Jake Wade Wall above). The story unfolds logically. The pacing is nice. Tension builds slowly, as it should in this kind of horror, and then delivers an ending that... well, see the SPOILERS section at the end of this review for comments about that. Heh.


3) Director of Photography, Jared Moossy, did a good job, too. There is no pointless camera spinning during conversations, no fuzzy imagery to hide a lack of budget (or a lack of imagination), and especially no five-minute-long jumpy smeary "fleeing" sequences. (Well okay, there are a few quick ones, but when a character is holding the camera, a few jostles must be allowed.) The camera placement clearly shows you what you need to see when you need to see it, even though some artsy-fartsy angles are used. That's okay, though. Artsy fartsy angles are fine if used well.


4) The actors are good! Holy freakin' cow! Horror films, being what they are, often use fledgling actors because of low budgets. Duh. But Michael Druck, responsible for casting, found a group of actors who know their stuff. (Though I do have to admit to a perverse fascination with bad acting, especially in "interview" scenes in horror "documentaries." There's just something so entertaining about watching bad acting. What is wrong with me??)


5) I truly appreciate Ian Duncan's editing. I'm all for jump cuts and smash cuts and all the visual techniques used to create the creepies, but this film doesn't call for them, and they aren't stuffed in where they don't belong. *I bow in respect*


6) Special effects? There aren't many, but the ones you see are good ones. Kudos to Brandon Noack, Special Effects Coordinator, for maintaining subtlety when subtlety is required and delivering effective spookies when effective spookies are required.


7) There isn't much of a score, but when music is used, James Cheney provides good stuff. I think the limited music is a good decision with this film. A heavy musical score creates a big cinematic experience, whereas this movie is small and personal, a series of private moments in private lives... as long as those lives last, that is. Heh.


All in all, I like this flick and recommend it. Yes, we've seen lots of films like it, but be honest—how many of them are good? Devil's Backbone, Texas is like a breath of fresh air in the crowded "found footage" plot category.


I do have one question for all cheesy horror filmmakers, though. If a film is conveyed through the use of a character's video camera, why the poop does that character keep filming even when things get so terrifying that nobody in their right mind would give a crud about filming? I'd throw the stupid camera down and run for my life!


Well, this movie provides a fun answer.




About the ending...


I'm of two minds here. On the one hand, the first twist is great. It makes you respond like the two female leads and yell, "Are you freakin' kidding me??!" On the other hand, it's a cheat. But on the other other hand, it's a good cheat. And then when you're hit by the second twist only mere moments later, you're left going, "Oh, of course!" or maybe, "I should have seen this coming." So I ask: is the very end a good twist-upon-a-twist or just another cheat on top of the first one?


I'd like to know what you think about this, because I'm still debating it. If you've already watched this

flick, or if you plan to watch it, contact me by using the Contact & Follow tab in the menu and send me your opinion of the ending. I'm curious to know what you think. If I get enough interesting responses, I'll post them!

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