Devilreaux is one of the most inept horror movies I’ve ever seen. It can’t decide whether to be a police procedural, a villain’s origin story, or a slasher flick, so it tries to be all three at different points without tying them together. The main draw is actor/horror icon Tony Todd’s name on the poster. He’s onscreen for about 10 minutes, tops. His appearance is appropriate, as the makers shamelessly rip off Candyman with the overall premise.

The plot kicks off with cop Bobbie Briggs (Krista Grotte Saxon) investigating a young woman’s claim that she and her friends were attacked by a mythical being known as Devilreaux, whom they summoned via a spirit board. Here, the film abruptly stops in its tracks, launching into a half-hour flashback that tells the legend of Devilreaux. He was the product of rape, when a white plantation owner sexually assaulted a female slave. The woman’s husband – that would be Tony Todd – murdered him in retaliation, only to be killed by someone else. Now Devilreaux (Vincent M. Ward) seeks revenge on anybody connected to his biological father’s bloodline. (This whole background could have been relayed in five minutes instead of thirty.) Then it’s back to the present, sort of, as Briggs continues questioning the sole survivor. Using flashbacks again, we see how the friends were attacked.

With a disjointed-bordering-on-random structure like that, it’s no wonder Devilreaux fails to generate the slightest hint of suspense. It doesn’t help that director Thomas J. Churchill has zero clue how to stage a scene to make it scary. His shot compositions and editing are lifeless. Of course, his screenplay is no better, pointlessly elongating scenes with endless repetitive dialogue. For example, at one point, two characters enter a room and spend a couple minutes discussing it, even though the room does not have any actual relevance to the plot. The acting, meanwhile, is amateurish, especially in the 1800s flashback, where the performers speak with ridiculous, unconvincing Southern accents.

In lieu of tension, drama, and terror, the movie delivers a number of unintentionally funny scenes. My favorite finds a soon-to-be murdered woman falling into a dark basement (that, to our eyes, seems quite well-lit). Her friend tosses down a flashlight, despite a light switch being clearly visible on the wall right next to her. This sort of “we don’t really care” vibe goes right up to the abrupt non-ending that resolves nothing.

With its cheap aesthetic, atrocious acting, insipid screenplay, and flat direction, Devilreaux is an embarrassment to all involved, especially Tony Todd, a fine actor who deserves better. The film’s ineptitude is made humorous by the end credits, during which director Churchill thanks several notable individuals “for inspiration” – Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, and Joel Osteen. One of these things is not like the others.

out of four

Devilreaux is unrated, but contains bloody violence and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.