On the one hand, The Devil’s Doorway gets so much right that it is one of the more enjoyable modern found-footage style horrors in a while. On the other it is sorely lacking in originality, very predictable and is paced poorly.
Set in the 1960s in Northern Ireland, the location of the film is at one of the infamous Magdalene Laundries. Now, the horrible history of these religious and state-sponsored ‘homes’ is out there and available to read so I’m not going to go to deeply into it here. These places were basically religious prisons for young woman who were deemed to have ‘loose morals’. If that made you feel uncomfortable… good. These places were often hellish, making them a fantastic setting for Aislinn Clarke’s movie.
Shot on 16mm film to fit the time-period, two priests are sent to a Magdalene Laundry to investigate a report of a supposed miracle. The young and excited Father John (Ciaran Flynn) who is documenting the experience with a camera and Father Thomas (Lalor Roddy) who is older, more experienced but also jaded about his religion. He has good reason too as he explains in a fantastic scene about the evils of human-kind and the tricksters claiming miracles when there are none.
It’s his jaded attitude that sees him attempt to disprove the miracle that is said to be taking place at the Magdalene Laundry. The miracle? A Virgin Mary statue began weeping blood.
As the two priests begin their investigations they witness the horrors of the Magdalene Laundry with the women worked to the bone and beaten when seen to be ‘out of line’. All overseen by the cold, calculating and cruel Mother Superior (Helena Bereen). Her and Father Thomas clash constantly throughout the movie as he is disgusted by the place.
There’s your horror movie, an effective story based in reality with just a touch of the supernatural to keep you guessing. Unfortunately, The Devil’s Doorway chooses to drop the early tension that it builds for lacklustre jump scares and ghostly children. All of this occurs a quarter of the way in and it’s so frustrating. Several scenes of children laughing followed by sightings leading to an ‘in your face’ jump scare is enough to make you turn the movie off.
That it then tries to go back to building tension around the exact same thing is laughable. We’ve already seen ghost children, why would the sound of them be scary afterwards? It’s a serious misstep for a horror that seems to be unsure about just what kind of horror it wants to be.
I say this because halfway through the movie we’re introduced to a pregnant young woman who has been kept locked up in the basement because she is suffering from possession. Whatever Father John and Father Thomas expected has well and truly gone out the window, now they have to save a young woman’s soul all while uncovering the truth behind the Magdalene Laundry.
That truth is well done and the final 10-15 minutes of the movie has thrills and chills. It’s nothing new if you’re a regular of paranormal/possession horrors but it satisfies.
As you can tell there are plenty of reasons to give The Devil’s Doorway a chance but perhaps the best one is the fantastic performance of Lalor Roddy as Father Thomas. Engaging, interesting and likeable, his character is sympathetic because of his jaded point of view.
Being a found-footage movie, it does come with most of the expected issues that plague the sub-genre of horror though. However, here it’s a little more forgivable because of the era and filming style. What isn’t so forgivable is the inclusion of music designed to ramp up tension leading to a jump scare. While sparingly used, it is confusing as to why it was included.
Here we have a horror movie that is found-footage so supposed to be ‘real’. It’s easy to invest it that too because of the location, performances and filming style. A sudden burst of music or slow creaking build just takes you out of the moment reminding you that you’re watching a movie. If you want that stuff, don’t make a found-footage horror!
If you can get past this and the total lack of originality, you’ll find a decent horror movie here. One with a base idea that is far more terrifying then the ghostly/demonic shenanigans that encapsulates the majority of the film.
The Devil's Doorway