Good title, good premise – but can I Trapped The Devil live up to it? Here’s our review.

Certificate: 15
Director: Josh Lobo
Cast: AJ Bowen, Susan Bruke, Scott Poythress
Release Date: 21st October
Reviewer: Matt Edwards

“There’s a man in the basement.”

I Trapped The Devil has a brilliant title and a brilliant premise.

Matt and Karen drop in on Matt’s brother Steve at Christmas. Things are tense. The family has been fractured for some time and Steve’s isolated life has left him ill-equipped to deal with other people. Only, it turns out that Steve isn’t actually as alone as we may have thought. Steve believes the devil is locked up in the basement. And in the basement there is a door. And behind that door there is a someone. Or a something.

I Trapped The Devil is a murky, sweaty film. The air is thick with tension. The atmosphere in this film is so heavy that you breathe it in, you can feel it in your lungs like the moisture on a grindingly hot, muggy summer day.

That tension carriers the film through its first act. It’s a very contained film, clearly made on a budget, yet it’s able to hold your attention with just three people in a house. It’s full of small, human drama and is accompanied by invasively creepy music.

The real power of I Trapped The Devil, though, is that it’s a mystery. Once that’s established, it’s about leading your suspicions. Throwing out clues, misdirection and new pieces of the puzzle. This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat, tilting your head like a new angle with give you a different view of the case, trying to work out who or what is behind the door.

Stephen King wrote a novel for pulp crime label Hard Case Crime called The Colorado Kid. It’s a mystery story about mystery stories, and it serves as a brilliant exploration of the genre. Part of King’s story is that the resolution to the mystery is not as important as the journey to solve it. It can never be as satisfying. I Trapped The Devil wisely spins its mystery out, holding out on answering the question until the very end. And sure enough, when we do find out, it’s a little anticlimactic. This writer wonders whether the question needed to be answered at all.

Mystery stories are also great for bonding you with your protagonists because you’re all finding out information together and you’re all working towards the same goal, them in the story and you in the audience. Smart writing means that just the three characters are enough to hold us for the entire runtime. The disturbed Steve is a fascinating character, a man overwhelmed by the constant access to tragedy we have thanks to the 24 hour news cycle. He’s believable as the kind of political conspiracy theorist who has begun to have a real impact on the world. He’s a timely and frightening inclusion.

For what is obviously a small film, there’s little evidence of any great struggle against the budget. In particular the musty, overloaded house provides a fantastic backdrop to the drama, with Steve a convincing hoarder and his home a believably full and claustrophobic place. The Christmas setting also allows for a little fun with coloured lights, which this writer appreciated.

I Trapped The Devil is a minimalistic mystery piece, where the tension ratchets up and the atmosphere weighs heavy. It’s definitely one to keep an eye out for.