Fright Night Friday – The Devil’s Machine (2019)
My fellow Horror fanatics, I’ve been lax in my dedication to the genre. I skipped an entire year without bringing you reviews of some favorite films.
This year I’ve returned, and I hope you enjoy what I’ve been discovering out there. To start you off, I’m going to return to one of my favorites: Hex Media / Hex Studios.
Award-winning director Lawrie Brewster, along with writer Sarah Daly, has created a fourth indie hit with The Devil’s Machine.
Originally titled, “Automata,” this new film is Hex Studio’s biggest ambition yet. A Lovecraftian tale of a centuries-old automaton, and the ghosts that haunt it, The Devil’s Machine brings things to a whole new level.
As you’ve read in my previous reviews, Brewster is a master of vision. Along with Michael Brewster and Gavin Robertson, the cinematography, editing, and direction in this film is pure artwork.
From the haunting shots along the moors of Scotland to the creepy interiors of a historic mansion, this film knows how to evoke emotion visually.
Brewster outdoes himself, however, as whereas previous films were mostly creepy, The Devil’s Machine has some great scares in it. Moments of dread and sudden figures add a new style of terror that delights and frights.
Daly also continues to show her skill, as this is a horror tale worthy of the Vincent Price-era adaptations of Lovecraft and Poe. The way she interwove the story of the ‘Infernal Princess’ with the modern historian and his relationship with his step-daughter was disturbing (in all the right ways).
The Devil’s Machine is not just a supernatural tale of a cursed creation, but also a thriller about a man and obsession. The semi-incestuous horror is genuine and pushes the audience to the edge in several scenes.
None of that would be possible, however, without a cast to portray Daly’s vision.
I don’t think I’ve seen a film with Jamie Scott Gordon where his performance hasn’t been impressive. He continues that record, giving a fantastic portrayal of Dr. Brendan Cole, the expert charged with solving the riddle of ‘The Infernal Princess.’
Gordon manages to portray obsession and torment like no man can, changing from an intrigued inspector to a terrified victim. You hang off every word and expression whenever he’s on the screen.
He is supported by relative newcomer Victoria Lucie, as his step-daughter Rose. She brings almost the same gravitas to a role that requires just as much range.
Lucie manages numerous iterations of her character, from innocent to temptress, mortal to possessed, and she is incredible in all of them. I’ll always be a fan of Mr. Gordon, but I am now also a fan of Ms. Lucie.
Lest I forget, I also need to acknowledge Alexandra Hulme’s work as the titular character. She shows once more how she can use body language to be everything from terrifying to sad, and she brings the automaton to life (no pun intended).
The Devil’s Machine is not perfect, and not just because it’s an indie film. It’s very ambitious, and some of its effects and attempts at more significant scenes fall a little short.
I was not impressed with the military battles or even one ending scene that involved ghostly figures. I felt like some of the background actors’ performances were amateur at best, and the physicality was subpar.
I was also disappointed at times by Jonathan Hansler’s performance as the spectral “General,” which is a shock given his impressive body of work. While he was great at some scares, other times, his portrayal felt too forced.
I certainly hope this critique, however, doesn’t stop Mr. Brewster and Hex Studios striving for more ambitious films. As his first foray into massive battles and many extras, there will always be some flaws and his art still shows through.
Despite my criticisms, The Devil’s Machine is probably one of Brewster’s best works to date. I find it only second to 2016’s The Unkindness of Ravens, primarily because that film (and Gordon’s performance) are pure genius.
If you’re a fan of Hex Studios or a fan of indie Horror in general, then I cannot recommend this movie enough. From the horrific history of the ‘Infernal Princess’ to the torments of Dr. Cole and Rose, Brewster and Daly once more create a masterpiece of chills and thrills.
I give The Devil’s Machine a suspenseful 5 automaton tests out of 5.
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