At the Devil’s Door is a supernatural horror story that shows people just how bad choices can mess up one’s life and a series of it could seriously screw one up, especially if it has anything to do with the devil.
In 1987, 17 year old Hannah White (Ashley Rickard), a rebellious teen, falls in love with a guy she met in California and gets talked into playing a game with her boyfriend’s uncle in exchange for $500. Despite being weirded out by the oddness of the game, she completes its conditions and finds herself exposed to a supernatural being who wants to use her as a vessel for its sinister deeds. Fast forward to the 2000s, real estate broker Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is asked by a couple to sell their house as soon as possible because of their financial troubles. Upon inspecting the house, she stumbles across Hannah and more weird things ensue. When something happens to Leigh, her sister Vera (Naya Rivera) investigates to find out the truth behind the mystery.
Most critics have basically given At the Devil’s Door a thumbs up because of the excellent performances of its female cast members and I totally agree. Ashley Rickards managed to portray the troubled teen in a different way than her usual Jenna Hamilton from MTV’s Awkward. Naya Rivera broke out from her Santana (Glee) persona to deliver an empowered female character and Catalina Sandino Moreno, while she had the shortest role among the three managed to evoke empathy among the viewers because of her obvious love for her sister. It started out great with a gradual build up and executed the supernatural scenes with a control that did not give out too much but still left a lot to the imagination. The film also had great continuity and the flow in the way it transitioned from different timelines. I liked that it picked the right moments to break out the scares and proceeded cautiously with every scene, building up on the suspense gradually.
However, while there was a great potential in the film, I felt like there was something lacking in the basic premise of the story that should have made it stronger as a horror. It had sympathetic characters, it had ominous music and a creepy house as a setting and even the demon was well made. Yet, the fact remains that there wasn’t a lot of substance to the story and most of the movie was just stretched out to make the ironic connection between Vera’s original lack of interest in building a family and the how she eventually found one.
What really irked me was the sheer stupidity in some of the characters actions like why would a girl take orders from a creepy stranger just because her boyfriend told her to? Why would a husband and wife leave their baby to an obviously unstable babysitter, or what the requirements were to become the devil’s vessel? I just wished screenwriter/director Nicholas McCarthy had made that clear. I believe that had he done this, the story would pack a lot more punch than it did because as it stands, some parts were fairly predictable. All it would have taken was a little more tweaking in the script.
All in all, I was a bit frustrated about what didn’t happen for At the Devil’s Door, more than anything else. I believe that it played safe when it would have made much more sense to push forward and its a shame about the wasted potential. It could have been an awesome awesome horror but it chose to box itself in. Still, the girl in the red raincoat was an excellent touch, visually.