The Devil’s Rock (2011)

Nazis – they failed miserably in taking over the world. Yeah, they tried really hard and killed a lot of people, but they still utterly and completely failed. Yet – according to the history of film – they had hundreds of nefarious schemes involving everything from releasing monstrous entities imprisoned in another dimension (Hellboy) to making a Nazi vampire super-race (Blood Reich: Blood Rayne 3). This Nazi/Occult combination has appeared in everything from broad action adventures such as Indiana Jones and Bulletproof Monk to popular computer games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

In 2011 the Nazi / Occult film resurfaces again, this time in the New Zealand-made horror flick The Devil’s Rock. But are you a bit bored of Nazis and the occult? Yes? Don’t be. The Devil’s Rock will wake you up.

June 5th 1944 – the eve of D-day; allied commandos carry out sabotage raids on the German occupied Channel Islands, to draw Hitler’s attention away from Normandy. Two Kiwi commandos canoe to Forau Island (five miles North-East of Guernsey), silent invaders on enemy territory, looking to destroy the gun emplacements dotted around the island.

Although the beach is mined and the gun emplacement still active, there are no Nazis, and all Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) can hear is agonized screaming coming from the concrete fortification nearby. Foolishly curious, the two men enter the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the fort and discover the building is awash with blood, guts and dead Nazis. They quickly realize they’ve stumbled upon something worse than their swastika-wearing enemies – much worse – and find the head of Hitler’s occult Gestapo division (Matthew Sunderland) has set up shop inside the fort’s tallest tower, and his experiment has gone slightly awry…

The Devil’s Rock is an extensively researched visceral horror film about the Nazi’s occupation of the Channel Islands towards the end of the war. It laces fact and fiction together seamlessly, from the German troops’ starvation towards the end of the war to the real-life “Bad Books”, which displayed proof of the Channel Islands history with the occult and witchcraft. Luckily this detail doesn’t consume the film, as some “historically accurate” pieces do, but builds a solid, believable world within the movie. Until the big red demon turns up, that is…

Paul Campion has does an excellent job on a small budget. At times The Devil’s Rock appears epically created and awash with money, and at others it looks a little “TV studio” flimsy. His direction is sound and the script – co-written by Paul Finch and Brett Ihaka – is very good, filled with believable dialogue and characters you genuinely want to root for.

There are a number of issues with The Devil’s Rock, however, that make it awkward to watch at times. Occasionally the lines are mumbled or miss-heard, the accents are confusing (as our lead German appears to be British at times), the middle section is incredibly talky, and the Demon… Well, there’s another lesson in “Less is More” here. Although incredibly well designed and crafted, we see too much of her, and she heavily reminded me of a mixture between the Empress of the Racnoss from Doctor Who and that ridiculous demon from Insidious. Despite this, Gina Varela plays her excellently, I just feel a little more shadow play would’ve made the piece more powerful.

Luckily Craig Hall and Matthew Sunderland manage to make this potential barrel of clichés and silliness compelling and believable. They are a superb double act, and complimented ably by Gina Varela and Karlos Drinkwater. Even during the sagging, meandering mid-section, Hall and Sunderland’s talents ensure The Devil’s Rock is still watchable.

Impressively, The Devil’s Rock also firmly stamps a big, red 18 certificate all over itself: intestines, gunshot wounds, brains, organs, entrails, guts, blood-splattered walls and a German deep-throating an entire rifle. It is incredibly bloody and violent and very well done in the majority of places. If you love your gore, you’ll love this, and its amazing having produced such quality effects on a limited budget; brutal and brilliant.

Overall The Devil’s Rock is well worth watching. It’s well acted, scripted and crafted. Occasionally it fails to deliver and might sag in the middle, but overall it’s a genuinely well made horror film that covers the screen in blood, guts, Nazis and one very hungry demon.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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