Plot: Karla Marks (Anne-Marie Mueschke) and her husband Bryan (Bryan Manley Davis) were paranormal investigators, complete with all the ghost hunting equipment and a website devoted to their work. The couple had been to countless haunted sites and eerie locales, but when they investigated a notorious site known as the Devil’s Well, it would change their lives forever. The well rested in the basement of a long abandoned structure and when the couple filmed their visit, the camera revealed some strange, eerie experiences. But while the camera was active, it wouldn’t pick up enough to tell the entire story of Karla’s disappearance. She would vanish during the visit and while Bryan was suspected, he maintained his innocence. One year after she went missing, another team of paranormal investigators will visit the site with Bryan, hoping to find some answers or even Karla herself…
Entertainment Value: As frequent readers know, I am not a big fan of found footage horror movies, but I always keep an open mind. In the case of The Devil’s Well, the movie follows a familiar path, but it hits all the right notes and executes the conventions of the genre with skill. This movie plays like a documentary, complete with studio interviews and isn’t just some people with hand held cameras, so it feels like a horror movie that happens to include some found footage. The documentary segments provide background on the characters and narrative, which means right from the start, this feels like more than just some friends exploring a local haunted spot. Even when the new characters are brought in, some time is taken is establish them as characters, not just fodder, which to me, adds a lot to the experience. As the movie transitions into the more typical found footage elements, the usual genre tropes are explored and having the suspected husband involved in the revisit was a nice touch. I also liked how it all ended, with a stranger, more satisfying conclusion than a camera dropping to the ground. This movie makes a real effort to push horror back into the genre and I loved that aspect of The Devil’s Well, as well as the solid character development involved. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should have a lot of fun here, but even if you’re on the fence about found footage, this one rises above most of the pack.
No nakedness. The movie has no romance or sexual content, so it stands to reason there would be no naked flesh. The movie takes a slow burn, character driven approach, but in a welcome surprise, this one has some actual violence. As is typical for the genre, most of it happens just off screen, but there is a vivid, beautiful burst of bloodshed at one point that genre fans will love. I know, a found footage horror movie with actual gore, what a time to be alive. So the volume of violence might be low, but man, that scene packs a nice punch and is a memorable moment. I appreciated the dialogue here, as it avoids most of the “in jokes between friends” and “listing genre cliches” that a lot of found footage falls into, focusing instead on giving us a little character depth, then using that to drive the dialogue involved. A novel idea for the genre, I know, but it works and leads to some interesting moments. I loved the conversation about bringing a gun to a ghost hunt, as the husband realizes the gun is to protect the crew from him, not the ghosts. The tone is mostly serious, so the dialogue is wild, but don’t let the low score fool you, this is one of the better written films in the genre. As for craziness, a found footage movie that isn’t driven by shaky camera work is pretty wild, but aside from an eye opening finale, this one stays close to genre conventions.
Overall Insanity: 2/10