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Devil’s Path is the kind of old school, grind house, chase in the woods thriller Hollywood doesn’t know how to make anymore. A throwback to the bloody, drive in thrillers of the 1970s, Devil’s Path is a visceral and often disturbing thriller with exceptional characters and a killer pace. Actor turned first time director Matthew Montgomery directs Devil’s Path and delivers a stunner of a debut feature.
Devil’s Path is the nickname given to a stretch of forest where gay men hookup for anonymous gay sex. As we jump into the story we meet Noah (Stephen Twardokus), a strange figure who is found clinging to a tree while blasting rock music on an old school, tape playing walkman. We don’t know what era the film is set in, there are polaroid photos, no cellphones and Noah’s tape player as indicators but regardless, Noah’s choice of music and device add to the odd atmosphere.
The plot kicks in when Noah spots Patrick (J.D Scalzo) and approaches him as if he were interested in a quick hook up. Noah’s odd manner however, puts Patrick off even as he persists in conversation with this stranger. Noah has approached him carrying tarot cards which he clumsily uses as a come on. The cards belonged to Noah’s brother who we will come to find out has disappeared in the woods.
Noah and Patrick’s conversation is interrupted when Noah is attacked by someone on the trail after they’d briefly been separated. Two men then begin chasing after Noah and Patrick through the woods appearing as if they want to finish the job they started when they attacked Noah. We learn early on that portions of the trail have been closed after two men went missing recently and we assume that’s what we are in the midst of as Noah and Patrick run for their lives. Along the way, Noah and Patrick get to know each other more and secrets are slowly revealed.
Devil’s Path sneaks up on you with how good it is. Initially, as the film began with some awkward voiceover and a few choice, awkward line readings such as, "There’s no love on Devil’s Path," and you wonder if you’re in for something truly amateur. That melts away as the chase begins and the characters of Noah and Patrick and their conflicting motivations are revealed. The secrets that these two characters are carrying are fascinating and devastatingly revealed.
Matthew Montgomery directs the action of Devil's Path with confidence and daring, consistently upping the ante on the suspense and the twists. There is a risk of exhausting the audience with too many turns off the plot but at a tight 87 minutes, that isn’t a problem for Devil’s Path. The film is efficient in its twists and turns. The cinematography is a tad too dark and the plot points of polaroid pictures are a tad forced without the context of when the film is set, but those are relatively minor complaints.
I really enjoyed the film score of Devil’s Path. There is an old school thriller vibe to the score, like something out of a 70s horror movie. The shrieking strings and deep bass give the movie a grand Guignol feel that it would otherwise lack due to the film’s limited budget. The score makes Devil’s Path feel bigger and more terrifying than it may actually be, like a big budget feature that the film is most assuredly not. Credit goes to Ceiri Torjusson for the film score. Torjusson is a veteran of the music department on a number of big budget movies including I, Robot and The Day After Tomorrow.
Devil’s Path surprised me by being far more than just an LGBTQ themed thriller. Forget about that aspect of the movie, this is just a really great, bloody, violent and tense thriller. Devil’s Path is a terrific throwback to when Hollywood had room for dark and disturbingly violent thrillers with complex characters and unpredictably dark twists. I dug the heck out of Devil’s Path and if you’re a fan of 70s style violent thrillers, you will dig it as well.