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October 13, 2014

The Devil's Business

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Sean Hogan - 2012
Mondo Macabro All Region DVD / BD Region ABC two-disc set

What, ahem, possessed Mondo Macabro to take on The Devil's Business? The inclusion in their catalogue is unexpected as it is a relatively new film, made by people for whom English is their native language, and hardly what one might expect for a genre mashup that starts off as a gangster film that turns into a horror movie of sorts, where even the blood and gore might be considered done in good taste. Writer-director Sean Hogan is frank in the commentary track about the debt owed to Harold Pinter in this dialogue heavy film. I can imagine that someone picking up this film for the title might be infuriated that there is more time spent on atmosphere, with extended scenes of a couple of white guys sitting around talking, while the kind of person who's familiar with Hogan's reference to The Dumb Waiter, possibly might be dismissive of a film featuring a vampiric homunculus.

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In print, it might not sound like much, but there is something intriguing about Irish actor Billy Clarke, with only the left side of his face illuminated like a sliver of the moon, talking about the ghostly apparition of a woman who appears at night. The older Pinner, and the young Cully, two hit men, sit and wait in home of their victim, out for a night at the opera. For Pinner, "A job is a job", and waiting is part of what is required. Cully is impatient for something to happen. What begins as the story of two hit men waiting in the dark, turns into something else when the pair finds a room with a giant pentagram, a goat's head, and dead body.

This is also the kind of film I like to recommend to other filmmakers, to see what can be done with just a handful of actors, and a small digital camera. The commentary track is worth listening to, as producer Jennifer Handorf discusses some of the last minute changes done when the original location was lost, and production moved to the family home of her in-laws. Sean Hogan doesn't shy away from mentioning some of his sources for inspiration. Hogan doesn't attempt to pad things out, so that the film clocks in at about seventy minutes, taking in the lesson from Val Lewton that it is better to suggest horror with what you don't see, and let light and shadows do most of the work.

The DVD/Blu-ray set discs include interviews with Hogan, Handorf, Clarke and composer Justin Greaves, as well as a couple of music videos by Hogan.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 13, 2014 06:16 AM