Review: Generic creature feature 'The Devil Below' sinks into oblivion
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Brad Parker found remnants of success thanks to “Chernobyl Diaries,” a mid-budget programmer that molded a steady line of jolts. It would seem his latest: “The Devil Below” tries to replicate those frights without the luster of a big marketing campaign or recognizable actors (save for a gruffled Will Patton who has approximately three minutes of screen-time). Generally a fan of creature-features (I still think “Underwater” is the hidden gem of 2020), it’s shocking how lifeless and boring “The Devil Below” registers. This generic monster rehash, obviously stolen from the SyFy original movie playlist, unearths nothing worth celebrating. Anchored by a group of nameless scientists investigating urban legend folklore in the coal mines of Appalachia, this bland and frankly un-scary trek sinks just as quickly as it starts.
Considering the bar and quality of these cheesy B-movies, “The Devil Below” never has fun with its admittedly decent premise. The movie begins - as all these movies must - with explorers and scientists eager to make their next discovery despite the townsfolk expressing concern. Arianne (Alicia Sanz) is leading a brigade of egotistical scholars to locate a secluded mine which vanished after a series of fires unleashed toxic gases and removed it from the map. None of the characters - aside from Arianne - are interesting and Parker introduces them as pigs being led to slaughter.
Which is fine, but unlike “Alien” or the aforementioned “Underwater,” we don’t necessarily watch B-movies for prestige character development (though it doesn’t hurt so when they die we actually care) we’re sticking around for bloody carnage that’ll get noticed for creativity. In order for that to work, suspense and tension are paramount, of which “The Devil Below” has none. In what I assume is a result of budget constraints, most of the deaths and dismemberments are either shown off-camera or hidden by grainy night vision, leaving the entourage of unconvincing performers to sell the material. They don’t.
As for the monster/alien hybrids (whatever you wanna call them), they’re vaguely explained and aren’t seen in their full glory until the final twenty minutes, which makes sense considering the suits look clearanced out from Spirit Halloween. Props to Sanz who parkours around these laughable baddies and finds the strength to deliver her cornball lines. You can tell she and Parker had fun making this movie, and “The Devil Below” might work as a drinking game among friends, but its predictable, unoriginal nature should keep it buried for the rest of eternity.
THE DEVIL BELOW is now playing in select theaters and available on VOD/Digital