Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Devil's Hole (orig. El Hoyo del Diablo) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

The Devil's Hole (orig. El Hoyo del Diablo) [2012] (directed and cowritten by Francisco Disla Fierra (El Indio) along with Humberto Espinal) is a well-made and at times good humored/campy horror movie from the Dominican Republic that played recently at the 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival.

In many respects, the film follows the trajectory / conventions of classic (North) American horror films: A group of vivacious (at time obnoxious) college students set off for a weekend / vacation of fun and find themselves in a "cabin in the woods" that's haunted.

To this outline are overlaid various conventions of local traditional story telling.  The story comes from "Santo Domingo" (the Dominican Republic) after all, which borders with Haiti.  So the well of Santeria / Voodoo inspired lore is quite deep ;-).  The effect for this "gringo reviewer" (but who's still had family connections "with village lore" from his family's native Bohemia (today's Czech Rpublic) was fascinating.  And honestly folks, this story was more positive / edifying than most contemporary (North) American horror film as should become clear in the discussion below.

The story involves a group of college students from Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, who head-off to the countryside for vacation as school's out for Holy Week (Spring Break).  On their way to their destination, however, a truck swerves into their lane, forcing their car to plunge down a rather steep ravine.  When they get out of the car, all rather bruised and bloodied, and search for help, they eventually find themselves by an old abandoned country home.  With it getting dark, they decide to spend the night.

Obviously, this was a bad idea ... ;-) Indeed, the circle of apparently dried blood that encircling the place would probably serve as a good indication to not enter.  But most of the college students don't seem to notice the circle.  Besides it's getting dark and where else are they going to stay?

Who does notice the circle of dried blood is a rather tormented young woman named Sofia (played by Marta Gonzales Liliano) who the other friends kinda dismiss as being kinda weird.  But then they felt kinda sorry for her.  So they took her along on this trip.  Besides she was Miriam's cousin (played by Solly Duran) who was cooler/more fun.  Anyway, as Sofia (and remember her name means "wisdom") approaches that left-over barrier of dried blood, a ghost of a snow white-haired girl named Luz (played by Karla Hatton) in a white dress appears and tells her: DON'T CROSS THE LINE.  So Sofia hesitates.  She asks her friend Brian (played by Johnie Mercedes) if he saw the ghost of the lady in white telling her not to cross the line.  He says no.  So after some hesitation, she crosses.  After all, all her other friends had already crossed.

Well of course the house has a tormented history.  It had been a site in which the Dominican Republic's army under the infamous dictator Trujillo had tortured and killed thousands of Haitian migrants in October 1937.

Not happy that Sofia had "crossed the line," the "lady in white" nevertheless tells her that she's now destined to free the souls of the hundreds perhaps even thousands of Haitians who were murdered in this place by a sadistic Dominican Colonel who had become possessed by the demonic spirit Revenant (played by Juan Fernandez).  Indeed, whenever Sofia touches anything in the house, episodes of its sordid play out in stylized black and white fashion around her.

But before Sofia can free all those people, the other friends in her party that need to be "knocked off."  The first to go are the coolest/most popular in the group (though honestly they don't particularly seem like bad people... though certainly the most worldly).  Escarlette (played by Karla Fatule), who was perhaps most bloodied by the accident must goes first.  He confident/athletic looking, and revolver carrying Jhon (played by Fausto Rojas) soon follows (apparently revolvers don't work well in a house cursed by Satan ...;-).  Miriam initially avoids a really large snake, but eventually it gets her.  Finally even Brian succumbs.

So all who's left is Sofia.  And good ole Revenant comes back from apparently a pit that reaches down to Hell to get her.

HOWEVER, in the midst of this, Sofia's MOTHER (played by Carlotta Carretero) back home in Santo Domingo has a premonition that something terrible's about to happen to her daughter.  So she goes to the local Santoria priestess to ask for help.  Well the priestess tells her: "You know what you're supposed to do, do it."

Well Sofia's mother goes to an altar dedicated to the VIRGIN MARY and prays for assistance.  The Virgin then sends SAINT MICHAEL (played on Luis Filguera).  He appears at the tormented house on a nice Big White Horse, enters, saves Sofia from the clutches of the Evil Revenant, dispatches him back down into the pit of Hell where he belongs.  And afterwards one sees a greyish cloud of all those previously trapped soul leaving the house and ascending up to the heavens.

So Sofia with the help of her mother, the Virgin Mary and Saint Michael is able to defeat the Demon Revenant and free all those tormented souls of the Haitians who had been murdered allowing them to go up to Heaven.

I did find the story fascinating.  And obviously there is some Santeria / Voodoo present in the story.  (The most problematic for me being Miriam and the snake...).  On the other hand, when Sofia's mother does pray to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin does send Saint Michael who does save her daughter and all those trapped/tormented Haitian souls (and most of those Haitians would have been Catholic).

In any case, I found the film well constructed, often fun (as far as the horror genre goes) and arguably more edifying than most of these kind of movies in the States.  After all, GOOD WINS and indeed the Virgin Mary / St. Michael come through.

As far as advice would go:  If you're ever asked to make (or cross) a circle of blood or a pentagram, PLEASE DON'T.  And when in trouble, DO pray to the Virgin Mary (the Hail Mary) or indeed, the Prayer to Saint Michael:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.


Apparently this film, which has been very popular in both the Dominican Republic and in Puerto Rico will play by the end of 2013 on HBO Latino and be released on Netflix ;-).

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