Devil Town Movie Review
Written by Ryan Noble
Released by Corporeal Films
Written and directed by Nick Barrett
2016, 16 minutes, Not Rated
As someone that completely understands there is “too much horror and not enough time,” horror shorts can be saviours. When they're done well, they can leave their viewer just as breathless in 10 minutes as a feature-length film could in 90 minutes. All the scares, none of the time commitment. And, luckily, I just watched such a film: Devil Town.
Written, directed and scored by Nick Barrett, Devil Town is a short that confidently delivers its horror with a slow burn that often comes with the body-invasion genre, in which this film firmly sits, despite being only 16 minutes long. The film is set in London's West Hampstead, and mainly takes place inside a café, where an estate agent meets a homeless man for a hushed conversation that will change his life.
The estate agent, Patrick, played very convincingly by Matthew Hebden, is a bit of a dick. He clearly sees himself as a London big-shot with too much money to be even remotely likeable. It is for that reason that I was happy to find him in a film of this genre. I knew he wouldn't last long.
Along comes Driscoll, played by Johnny Vivash, a homeless man who sits with him and tries to tell him about what is happening in the world around him. When Patrick refuses to listen, Driscoll steals his phone. In return for one minute of his time, Driscoll will return it. He's as shrewd as he is stinky – I assume – and it's wonderful how he puts Patrick in his place during this forced conversation.
He tells Patrick how “they're” everywhere now, biding their time but growing bolder each and every day as “they” make up more of the population. According to Driscoll, they're swarming in London. He tells stories of how he's seen them becoming more obvious in their takeover, dragging people through the streets, attacking on busy trains, and even how the authorities are now more “them” than “us.” They are the kind of stories that you'd expect to hear in this kind of body-snatching scenario, and my chest felt a little tighter as I imagined it happening in the real world.
As Driscoll explains to Patrick, trying to prove himself in a number of ways, the climax draws nearer and the plot takes a nasty turn. I won't tell you how, because that's part of the film's infective charm, but it's exactly the kind of finale I'd want from a film of this genre. Hell, it's all I want. And, throughout all of this, Barrett's old-timey score is playing through the café speakers, giving the modern-day terror a nicely vintage feel.
In terms of improvements, there were only really two minor things; firstly, the dialogue of both Patrick and Driscoll when they're outside is difficult to hear at first, before the camera moves closer, and secondly, I believe that Patrick would have been a little quicker to react during the film's final scenes. Not that I'll tell you what they are...
Devil Town is 16 minutes of horror worth devouring. The notes of the genre will be subtle at first, setting the scene for the main course, but it won't be long before your palette is overtaken with the rich flavours of the body-snatching genre. This is one café visit you probably wouldn't give five stars on TripAdvisor.
Devil Town has just had its London premiere at the InShort film festival and the LA premiere at the Los Angeles Cinefest; it's also been bought for release in a supernatural anthology by Dread Central/Ruthless Pictures for 2017 and been acquired by ShortsTV for broadcast.