Every so often, I like to live my life on the wild side. But what is living on the wild side like, you ask? Unfortunately I haven’t attended any cultist orgies or committed armed robbery if that’s your definition of wild. However, living on the wild side can also include ordering the spiciest dish on the menu from an Indian restaurant, or listening to gabber music whenever that mood takes. But I can only live like this for so long before I return to my diet of chicken nuggets and The Cure.
What am I getting at? Well, basically I can appreciate familiarity as well. Mundanity can be perfectly satisfying as long as there’s enough going on to keep you content. This includes generic as fuck exorcism films. If anyone can forgive a film for being generic and predictable it’s me, as long as it treads the familiar beats effectively enough and adds some excitement to proceedings. I wish Jason DeVan’s chiller Along Came the Devil did any of that.
The story follows Ashley (Sydney Sweeney), a troubled teen, is sent to live with her estranged Aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth). While in her old hometown she has spooky visions of her deceased mom, which inspires her to contact the spirit. But as we all know from the 10 gazillion other movies that feature teenagers contacting the spirit world, that’s not the best idea in the world. You know what happens next, Along Came the Devil covers every trope in the book.
What ensues is a small playthrough of small town life peppered with some supernatural hocus pocus. We spend a lot of time in the community, which is very religious for the most part. But this is Christianity for those who like to party. For example, the church in the movie does bring in alternative coffee shop bands. You know the radio-friendly Christian rock types that exist to offer God-fearing teenagers craving rock n’ roll their fill in case they stray from the path of the Lord and go seeking Insane Clown Posse? Think bands like Switchfoot and Creed, only without the big anthemic qualities that makes even the most ardent grindcore nuts secretly enjoy a few songs from time to time.
Fortunately, we do meet a couple of interesting characters that includes Madison Lintz as the local Hannah and Bruce Davison as a grizzled pastor. While there’s nothing particularly non-caricature about them, the actors bring enough aplomb to their parts to make them stand out. Sweeney, on the other hand, is an engaging lead and makes her character very likable. She will go on to bigger things. To the film’s credit, the cast is serviceable across the board and they all do the best job they can with the material they’re working with.
What lets Along Came the Devil down is the pacing and the failure to do anything fresh with the derivative elements. At the end of the day, it’s just a bit boring. The movie briefly introduces some ideas that are never fully explored or fleshed out, but even as a jump scare horror yarn it’s all fairly basic. When all hell breaks loose, The Exorcist nods are so blatant that you’d be as well just revisiting Friedkin’s masterpiece instead. That’s a shame, because for all the lead up isn’t particularly groundbreaking, the story could have passed for generic instead of a riff to a horror classic that pales in comparison.
The filmmaking artistry on display is actually pretty impressive, though. George Troester’s makeup effects quite impressive, and the cinematography by Justin Duval is exquisite at times. DeVan is also a very competent director who clearly has good movies in him. Now that he has this homage to The Exorcist out of his system, maybe he’ll divert his attention to focusing on more enticing projects going forward.