The Devil's Rock (Paul Campion, 2011)
2011, it turns out, was a surprisingly strong year for under-the-radar horror movies. I don't think any of them surprised me more than The Devil's Rock, a period piece that takes place just before D-Day off the coast of Normandy. That sort of thing just begs "abuse the hell out of me", but Campion (Night of the Hell Hamsters, a hilarious short you can dig up on Youtube), adapting his own story, resists the temptation by having all of the action take place in an island bunker, turning this into an interesting variation on the talk-piece. That just happens to contain the devil.
Plot: D-Day is in motion. Two commandos, Ben Grogan (The World's Fastest Indian's Craig Hall) and Joe Tane (The Two Towers' Karlos Drinkwater), are sent to take out a German gun emplacement on an island off the coast of Normandy. When they get there, however, they discover that someone-or something-has done their work for them, leaving only a handful of survivors, most of those dying. The only person who seems to have gotten away relatively unscathed is Klaus Meyer (Out of the Blue's Matthew Sunderland), a Colonel in charge of a secret Nazi project-making a pact with the underworld to ensure German victory in World War II. He seems to have done a better job than anyone expected him to, but he's managed to trap the demon in the summoning circle. The problem is, the demon is very good at manipulating humans-and Ben Grogan really, really misses his wife, Helena (Samoan Wedding's Gina Varela)...
This is a movie that's all about atmosphere-a small number of characters, a small number of sets, and a strong reliance on script and acting to pull it all off. It's not at all your typical horror movie, which may explain its surprisingly low ratings on IMDB (5.5) and Rotten Tomatoes (36% public, 56% critics, and that rather wide divide between public and critical reaction at RT is usually telling). As long as you go into it understanding that, I think you will have a very good time with this movie; it does a very good job with all the necessary pieces and cuts extraneous nonsense to the bone, at least after the first few sequences. Definitely worth checking out. *** 1/2