Within the first five minutes it’s clear The Devil Below isn’t overwhelmingly concerned with being interesting or in any way unique. From the boilerplate opening “scare” that’s lamely repetitive to the obvious Final Girl perusing exposition news clippings and flashcards of other main characters it’s almost laughable how much of a checklist the filmmakers seem to be working off.
On the plus side, since The Devil Below lets the viewer know right away not to expect anything they haven’t already seen dozens of times before there’s no sudden turn where quality falls off a cliff–it’s firmly “meh” from the start and never strays from that path.
Arianne (Alicia Sanz) has been hired to guide Cambridge Professor Darren (Adan Canto) and his research team to an abandoned coal mine in Appalachian country that’s been the subject of much speculation over the years. Decades ago a massive blaze was said to have destroyed a town, however Darren and the researchers suspect something else was responsible. Several unwelcoming locals, led by Schuttman (Will Patton), prove to be the least of the team’s worries once they find what they’re looking for…
I’ll start with what works and that’s Alicia Sanz as lead baddass Arianne. There’s not much to work with, but Sanz effectively conveys a battle-worn persona who’s also not just an unfeeling robot. Hopefully in the future she gets some roles with a little more depth. There *is* a tragic backstory for Arianne, but it feels more like setup for a later development than a character moment. The rest of the cast do fine enough, but nobody has anything beyond their surface characteristics and even then a few characters are purely ciphers to bump up the body count.
The writing and direction are where The Devil Below really faceplants as a creature feature, though. Poor shot choices telegraph several scares ahead of time, a chaotic night vision scene flies by with no clarity on what just happened or who died, and nothing makes any real positive impression. The script being a collection of lines, scenes, and ideas from other–better–movies absolutely doesn’t help. Between dialogue like “We’re not alone” and “We got a problem” throughout, bits lifted directly from films such as The Descent & A Quiet Place, the *multiple* cases of random side characters pointlessly sacrificing themselves (so our leads can get to the finale), and generic creatures we’ve all seen before I get the feeling this was more of a paycheck movie for all involved than anything else.
Oh, and there’s a weird argument the researchers have where one of them starts rambling about the merits of intelligent design (aka creationism silliness) like it’s a valid scientific POV. It doesn’t have much relevance to the big picture, but it was such an odd tangent. Also, the 92 minute runtime is rather deceiving as the last 10 minutes are simply credits–long, repetitive credits.
I’m sure it’s clear by now I wouldn’t exactly recommend The Devil Below, but even though it’s lame and unoriginal and all kinds of not terribly flattering words I don’t think it’s awful. If you find yourself scrolling through movies one night at 2am you could certainly do worse.
5 out of 10 Creature Feature Faceplants