Director: Joseph O’Brien
MPAA Rating: NR
At first glance, Joseph O’Brien’s feature directorial debut, Devil’s Mile, appears to be a simple throwback, road-trip, exploitation film, but it quickly evolves into something much more interesting. While at its core it does have a ’70s exploitation vibe, it also blends elements of Japanese horror, crime thriller and even some more paradoxical elements I can’t discuss without risking spoilers. It’s a messy film and doesn’t make much sense, but it’s still a fun ride.
The film revolves around a group of criminals who kidnap two girls and are on the road delivering the pair to a malevolent gangster. Instead of sticking to the highway, the group decides to head down a deserted country, road despite one of the creepy townsfolk warning them against it. As one might expect, terrible things begin to happen on the road, which causes the criminals to not only regret their decision, but could also cost them their lives.
The look of Devil’s Mile feels consistent with other low-budget horror faire we’ve been seeing over the last few years. The daytime scenes are completely blown out with light, making everything look washed out and colorless, an effect that was recently used in another road horror movie, Savaged. Also like Savaged, the nighttime scenes were so dark that one can barely make out what’s happening in the frame. I understand the director is trying to convey the two extremes in night and day, but the end result is the film just not looking very good.
One thing that did look good, however, was the creature design. It pulls heavily from Asian horror films and even some Lovecraftian influence, with the ghost that terrorizes the group being genuinely frightening, especially the first time it gets introduced. The CG work is spotty, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall creepiness. As it turns out, the spirit isn’t a big fan of light, and when it gets it with a beam, it causes some very cool effects.
Because these people are on a haunted highway that doesn’t conform to the laws of our mortal world, O’Brien, who also penned the script, has free reign to make it as crazy and preposterous as he wants. Thankfully, he keeps it mostly grounded except for the big twist at the finale, which will leave some immensely satisfied and others completely confounded. I lean more toward the former, realizing that this isn’t the type of movie that should be overanalyzed and to just roll with it.
When looking at the big picture, it seems like O’Brien just took elements from all the movies he likes and threw them all together into one mash-up film. Yet it proves to be far more entertaining than I expected. Devil’s Mile is a fun indie horror that may be a little too ambitious for its own good, but it’s still a good time and worth checking out.
Devil’s Mile Trailer from Grovers Mill on Vimeo.