aka The Devil’s Hand
Director – Christian E. Christiansen, Screenplay – Karl Mueller, Producers – Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe & Pete Shilaimon, Photography – Frank Godwin, Music – Anton Sanko, Visual Effects – Freestyle VFX, Pace Pictures & Pixel Magic (Supervisor – Ray McIntire Jr.), Special Effects Supervisor – Will Purcell, Makeup Effects – Jeff Goodwin, Production Design – Sharon Lomofsky. Production Company – Liddell Entertainment
Alycia Debnam-Carey (Mary Brown), Colm Meaney (Elder Eli Beacon), Rufus Sewell (Jacob Brown), Thomas McDonell (Trevor Stevens), Jennifer Carpenter (Rebekah Brown), Leah Pipes (Sarah Maker), Adelaide Kane (Ruth Warren), Stacy Edwards (Susan), Ric Reitz (Sheriff Stevens), Kate Garfield (Abby Beecher), Nicole Elliott (Hannah), Jim McKeny (Elder Stone), Drew Grey (Frank), Robin Dale Robertson (Tobias Maker)
In 1994, the New Bethlehem religious sect is horrified with the birth of six girls on the sixth day of the six month. Elder Beacon wants to kill the girls because he believes that this is the prophecy of the Drommelkind, the devil being born in flesh, but Jacob Brown prevents him. One of the mothers kills her child and herself to stop the prophecy coming true. In the present day, the other five girls are all nearing their eighteenth birthday. They are beginning to become playful and venture to the near end of the lake, beyond which they are forbidden to go, where they are attracted to boys from the town. However, as the hour of their birthday nears, the girls start to disappear and their murdered bodies later found. As more deaths occur and others kill themselves in panic at the prophecy coming true, Elder Beacon is determined to purge the evil from the community.
Christian E. Christiansen is a Danish director who has made a half-dozen films in his own country and gained attention with an Oscar-nominated short film At Night (2007). This had him brought to the US to make his first English-language film, the bland teen formula thriller The Roommate (2011). Where the Devil Hides was Christiansen’s second English-language film.
Where the Devil Hides seems to be setting out to do something different with the Devil Child theme, which has become an overused cliche in genre cinema. In a more original touch, the film is set within an Amish-like religious community. This immediately sets off some interesting moral conflicts – a Biblical prophecy taking place among a religious group that people regard as extreme and crazy. The film never quite tackles the either/ors it creates here – the question of whether the people are deluded in their superstitious worldview or if they are right what implications it holds for the rest of the world where it would seem that The Almighty requires an austere, judgmental and Luddhite lifestyle of us.
The setting and the series of murders taking place among the religious community and its difficult relationship with the outside world reminds a good deal of the less recognised Wes Craven film Deadly Blessing (1981). I found Christian E. Christiansen’s handling of The Roommate to be banal and cliche ridden but was surprised by Where the Devil Hides, which emerges as altogether a far better film. Christiansen keeps interest going with a series of novelty deaths – Robin Dale Robertson throwing a rope around his neck and getting the horse to pull away and hang him; a woman jumping from the church steeple. The film is also rooted with a good performance from Colm Meaney who gets into the part with harsh firebrand enthusiasm. Particularly good is the scene where he takes Alycia Debnam-Carey in for a personal examination, which comes with an uneasy ambiguity that suddenly casts him, previously a staunch upholder of the faith, in a very creepy light.
The film arrives at an effective surprise revelation of the identity of the killer. What made the film a disappointment for me was the ending [PLOT SPOILERS]. Here the film chooses to go with the old standby of the twist that has become a cliche in which a crazy cult or believers are shown to have been right about their beliefs all along as the prophecy comes true and the surviving girl is revealed to be the devil child they all suspected. We have seen variations on this twist in films such as Servants of Twilight (1991), Breaking the Waves (1996), Frailty (2001), Believers (2007), End of the Line (2007), Take Shelter (2011) and The Invitation (2015), and served up again it seems tired and groan-worthy.