The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Devil's Doorway

Are you tired of found footage movies? If so, The Devil's Doorway might just restore your faith in them a little bit. Director/co-writer Aislinn Clarke finds a new spin to put on the gimmick by tying it to a real and shameful part of the Catholic Church's past. The film is therefore more cerebral than your garden variety found footage picture, although it still contains plenty of moments to give you chills.

Set in 1960, the story centers around two priests sent by the Vatican to investigate a report of bleeding statues of Mary at a home for “fallen women.” Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) is an older man with great faith, but also a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to these purported miracles. The younger Father John (Ciaran Flynn), on the other hand, is extremely receptive to the idea. Using a 16mm camera, they document their findings, only to discover that something strange is indeed going on. The secret appears to rest with Kathleen (Lauren Coe), a pregnant young woman locked up in the basement.

There was a time in Ireland when the Catholic Church actually had facilities such as the one depicted here. Run by nuns, they housed women who became pregnant out of wedlock or had mental health problems. They were forced into labor and cut off from contact with the outside world. These “Magdalene laundries” were like prisons in many respects, with some even subjecting the women to beatings. Once word of the facilities went public, the United Nations intervened, applying pressure to get the church to close them.

Using this fascinating, if appalling piece of history automatically makes The Devil's Doorway more compelling than 90% of other found footage chillers. There is real weight and substance to the things that take place, as opposed to the normal generic goings-on in these pictures. Grounding the supernatural horror inside a very different, historically-based kind of horror ensures that you actually care about what happens in between the scary moments.

When those scary parts do come, they're quite effective. Having the footage look like it came out of an old camera – complete with the square aspect ratio – adds an extra edge of creepiness, with a dose of claustrophobia. Clarke stages the shock moments with skill, conveying the threat that something demonic might be lurking around. Strong performances add to the effect. Many found footage movies have acting that is shaky, at best. Roddy, Flynn, and Coe all make you forget you're watching actors, doing appropriately naturalistic work.

Just by virtue of the fact that it's found footage, The Devil's Doorway still has some of the usual tired cliches, including a shaky-cam finale set in a low-light location that makes it mildly challenging to see what's going on. That can be forgiven, though, because by and large, the movie pumps some new life into a format that has grown stale. Setting the story in a different time period and against the backdrop of the Magdalene laundries was an inspired idea – one that raises The Devil's Doorway a level above most others of its kind.

( out of four)

The Devil's Doorway is unrated, but contains mature subject matter, language, and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 16 minutes.

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