Friday, June 17, 2016

The Devil's Rock (New Zealand, 2011)

"Fuck you, hell-whore!"
Col Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland)

Go figure: for the DVD release in Germany, the powers that be renamed the flick Nazi Bitch — War Is Horror. A title that is far more reminiscent of such classic Nazi torture exploitation flicks like Lisa She-Wolf of the SS (1974 / trailer) than any WWII bunker-set supernatural horror flicks like, dunno, The Bunker (2001 / trailer) or The Keep (1983 / trailer). Be what it may, The Devil's Rock aka Nazi Bitch — War Is Horror has absolutely nothing to do with Nazi bitches but, instead, deals with flesh-eating demons (or, rather, demon). The original title is at least a bit more concise, slightly more playful, and relates to the plot: the rock of the title is an island, the monster of the flick a [female] devil. And while she might be a total bitch, to put it lightly, if she's a Nazi it's only by happenstance — sounds like many people we've met, actually, and not just in Germany.
This Kiwi flick — Is Kiwi a pejorative? Is it the N-word from Down Under? Is it even possible to have an N-word for white folks? — is a low budget WWII horror Kammerspiel (chamber play) with a core cast of three. Everyone else flits in only long enough to die: less time on set, less money spent. And the money saved seems to have been poured into the gore. (Good move!)
The plot concerns two New Zealand soldiers, Grogen (Craig Hall of 30 Days of Night [2007 / trailer], Perfect Creature [2006 / trailer], and The Ferryman [2007/ trailer]) and Tane (Karlos Drinkwater), who on the eve of D-Day are sent a German-occupied British Channel island to create a diversion by sabotaging the Nazi base. (The building they enter is modeled after one on Guernsey, built [in real life] by the occupying Nazi forces of WWII, but the island named in the movie is itself not a real one.) The two manly men find a scene of carnage, and soon only Grogen is still alive, a prisoner of the last surviving Nazi on the island, Colonel Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland of Backtrack [2015 / trailer] and Out of the Blue [2006 / trailer]). But wait! Grogen turns the tables, only to find his totally hot wife Helena (Gina Varela), who supposedly died in a bombing raid, locked in chains in a room upstairs...
No, this ain't no love story, it's about how war is horror and a Nazi bitch — though, in truth, the bitch is more a Demon Bitch (like, 100%) than a Nazi one. (They summoned her, true, but does that make her a Nazi? That's like saying all Trump supporters are racist assholes because he's a racist asshole when, basically, they're just idiots. And not all idiots are assholes, you know.) In any event, the core cast of three carries a relatively tightly scripted low budget horror film (the budget of this flick probably wouldn't have paid the on-set chemicals of the already ancient, similarly titled and extremely dull action thriller The Rock [1996 / trailer]) through to the end. And while nothing truly unexpected happens, the movie is extremely logical and believable in its narrative development (assuming you can accept the concept of demons) and truly keeps you interested until the end. The Devil's Rock might not be an unknown masterpiece — and unknown it is — but it is a wonderfully involving little gore flick that travels an uncommon narrative path: we, at least, haven't seen too many flesh-eating demon films in the past decades. (Zombies, yes; demons, no.) And, damn! That Demon/Nazi Bitch looks hot!
Director Paul Campion — no relation to the New Zealand art house Oscar-winning director Jane Campion of In the Cut (2003) — supposedly mortgaged his house to get the show on the road for his film, and all the power to him for succeeding; we hope he was able to buy a second house, 'cause he deserves it for delivering an obvious labor of love this good, this involving. People have gone onto bigger, greater things with directorial debuts half as good as this one; let's hope he does, too. With The Devil's Rock, he's delivered a well-made, well-acted and tightly scripted movie that jumps hurdles over its mini-budget. The character of Colonel Klaus Meyer is particularly well done, despite the occasionally lost accent: a blue-blooded Nazi, there comes a point when you as a viewer really no longer know whether or not he truly has seen the mistake of calling up an unkillable, flesh-eating demon or whether he's still got ulterior motives. And as for good guy Grogen, though a man with a mission, he comes across as emotionally scared and torn enough that one does occasionally doubt his resolve.
But the true stamp of quality of The Devil's Rock is that it takes a plot that easily could've drifted into ridiculousness or camp (especially with its literally red-hot demoness) and keeps it firmly rooted in serious gore horror. Yep, we're talking bukakke gore here: body parts get chowed down, heads get torn off, blood spurts everywhere — and never once does any of it come across as completely gratuitous. (Face it; a flesh-eating demon isn't going to be concerned with Mrs Manners' tips on social etiquette.)
We went in expecting nothing, and were seriously surprised: The Devil's Rock is everything a truly good low budget horror film should be. It's also definitely no waste of time.

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