“Well, that sucks for you, because you’ve only got half a soul left.”
“I only had half a soul to begin with.”
— Melvin and Richard, finally finding common ground
Richard (Bill Oberst, Jr., the “Eric Roberts” of horror, with 40-plus films in various states of pre-and-post-production; his most recently reviewed films are 3 From Hell and Devil’s Junction: Handy Dandy’s Revenge) is a low-level gangster in the midst of retiring from his life of crime. But before his bosses will let him out, he has to pull one final job: steal money from a rival gangster’s house. While Richard usually pulls jobs exclusively with his daughter Mouse (Mary Katherine O’Donnell; of the most recent Puppet Master romp The Littlest Reich), he’s forced to include the psycho-incestuous murder Percy (horror icon Kane Holder) on the crew.
Yeah, this isn’t going to end well. And we haven’t got to the demons.
The other victims of the “Devils” are Melvin (new-to-the-screen David Rucker III), his wife Louise (horror icon Linnea Quigley), and his 40-year-old stepdaughter Caroline (up-and-coming indie actress Kelley Wilson Robinson; who produces). Together, they curate the Museum of the Macabre—and the makeshift basement gallery’s newest acquisition is the alleged, infamous remains of the vampire Masquerade (the up-and-coming Veronika Stoykova; doing a great job under the make-up). And when those remains reanimate, Richard and Melvin join forces to protect their families in a Rodriquez-Tarantino showdown of the From Dust Till Dawn variety—only with a 1/2 cup of Raimiesque cabin humor spinning on the reel-to-reel.
What makes this all work is that—at first—you’re not quite sure which road of bad intentions this ol’ ’73 Oldsmobile Delta 88 is traveling. When we first meet the Cliff Huxtable-nerdom of Melvin (complete with a festive, pullover jack-o-lantern sweater-vest; yet, unlike Hux: he’s verbally abusive to his mousy wife and her kindly-ditzy daugthter), he’s holding high court with a group of Halloween-salivating neighborhood kids—who affectionately nicknamed him “Mr. G.”—weaving a tale about Masquerade as the kiddies anticipate his yearly Halloween display. Okay, so were heading down the orange-and-yellow candy corn road with Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club (1981) and Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad (1987), which is fine with us VHS-lovin’ movie
folk freaks out in the wilds of Allegheny: we love our Ward Baker and Dekker flicks ’round ‘ere.
Then Kane Holder (who’s excellently unnerving) blows away a bound-and-gagged mother and daughter with a shotgun. For reals. From Jason Voorhees to Billy Cosby on the drop of a dime. Then things go a bit “Kevin S. Tenney” as we think we’re getting a comedy-horror mix ala Night of the Demons (1988). But the vampire-demon possession follies have a graphic, Raimiesque vibe, even a Lamberto Bava Demons (1985) swagger.
What balances this trapped-in-the-house/cabin/movie theatre-and-we-can’t-out demon soiree is the light-on-his-thespin’ feet David Rucker III as Melvin. As the “Bruce Campbell” of this party, he expertly foils Bill Oberst, Jr.’s serious, leather-jacketed “George Clooney” (aka Seth Gecko) to add a much needed “you’ve got to be f’ing kidding me” vibe to slaughter. When you have a Raimiesque demon-witch ripping out a little trick or treater’s throat and possessing another—and you’re not a fan of kids-in-distress or dying on-camera (me)—you need a David Rucker III on the call sheets.
There’s been some great indie-horrors coming out of the Carolinas of late—South Carolina screenwriter and director Tommy Faircloth’s recently reviewed A Nun’s Curse comes to immediate mind—and The Good Things Devils Do (a catchy title that encourages rental) is a nice addition to those states’ burgeoning film resumes. You’ve got a familiar cast of horror greats hitting all of their marks (even though we lose them—graphically—half way though), buoyed by solid cinematography capturing a steady stream of action n’ violence as the bodies pile up. This is way above grade of the usual horror streamers.
The Good Things Devils Do, the feature film debut by North Carolina writer-director Jess Norvisgaard (a commercial camera operator who’s worked on the popular reality TV series The Biggest Loser and L.A. Ink, as well as FoxSports) is out now as a DVD/Blu and streaming on You Tube courtesy of Gravitas Ventures (we’ve recently reviewed their Eric Roberts-starrer, The Arrangement). You can learn more about the film on its official Facebook page.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.