I TRAPPED THE DEVIL
Written and directed by Josh Lobo
The title tells you everything you need to know, but to unravel the presupposition, writer/director Josh Lobo first takes an estranged brother, Matt, egged on by his well-meaning wife, Karen. They turn up, unannounced, at Steve’s home to celebrate the holidays together. Rather than be pleased to see his brother and sister-in-law, Steve point blank tells them they can’t stay. Matt refuses to leave and over dinner you discover this is more a mercy mission to bring Steve out of himself from what appears to be a horrendous incident in his recent past. Eventually, Steve lays his cards on the table and involves Matt and Karen in his absurd dilemma – he believes the person locked away in his basement is the devil. So begins a battle of wills for the truth of the situation and Steve’s loosening grip on reality.
Confined to Steve’s house for the entire film, this slow burn horror - a la Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL - traps the viewer in a heightened, early nineties period – removing technology from the equation – and leaves the opposing forces of ‘I know I’m not crazy’ versus ‘He’s crazy, right?’ to strain the relationships of our trio. AJ Bowen, Scott Poythress and Susan Burke’s superb performances leave you in no doubt of their shared history and how this situation is tearing them apart inside and out.
Shot on location, in a real house, it is testimony to Bryce Holden’s assured and forever interesting cinematography that you’d be tricked into believing it had to be made on a set. Each part of the house almost possesses a personality or tone of its own. Coupled with Matthew Schaff’s menacing sound design and Ben Lovett’s heavy music the intensity and claustrophobia of I TRAPPED THE DEVIL provides shades of the mania butting up against the real world you see in Roman Polanski’s REPULSION (1965). It even manages, in the end, to unnerve the viewer simply by lingering for an uncomfortably long time on a padlocked door. Logic be damned, the straight-forward conundrum of keep it shut or let him out gets into your head. It’s almost like Steve’s will to protect us from this concentration of evil in the world becomes perfectly reasonable as the tension shifts from lets get him help to please don’t let the devil out.