Cannes Reviews: Early Thoughts on Devil’s Rock & Faces in the Crowd

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The WWII occult flick & the Milla Jovovich thriller

Two genre movies had their Cannes market premieres today and both are well worth looking out for.

Remember the exciting ending of Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out where Chris Lee and co are standing in a pentagram being assaulted by satanic forces? That kind of suspense excitement caps director Paul Campion’s New Zealand horror thriller The Devil’s Rock (watch the trailer). Call it “Hellgirl,” call it “Saw with swastikas,” this Second World War set four-hander finds two Kiwi commandos assigned to the Channel Islands to blow up a giant gun at a beach head fortress. But once inside the foreboding structure they hear unearthly screams and investigate the dark tunnel system to discover the cause.

There they find the head of Hitler’s occult Gestapo squadron whose been experimenting with incantations from an ancient tome to allow a succubus to cross over from Hell. It’s all part of a master plan to win the war on the eve of D-Day. What the horny demon does to pit the already mortal enemies against each other further makes for an engaging gore and scare workout. Okay, it does get a bit too talky in the middle, but visual effects man Campion (Clash of the Titans, Narnia) makes the most of the cramped spaces with great lighting design and strings out the limited plotline into neat areas.

Craig Hill, as Captain Ben Grogan, really does make the whole cliché of the demon taking on his dead wife’s persona work against all the odds, while Matthew Sunderland, as Colonel Klaus Meyer, does the nasty Nazi schtick with class.

And remember that goofy comic strip affair Bloody Mallory from 2002? Well, French director Julien Magnat is back with the giallo-style thriller Faces in the Crowd starring Milla Jovovich. The set-up is an irresistible and inventive one: Jovovich witnesses the latest attack of a serial killer dubbed Tear Jerker Jack, but when he tries to murder her too, she survives by falling from a bridge and wakes up with “face blindness.” That condition means everyone’s facial features change each time she loses sight of them. It also means she can’t recognize the killer who could be anyone – her lover, friends, family, the police – and she would never know.

Jovovich has made some duff movies in the past but this isn’t one of them, she’s absolutely wonderful putting across the endless struggles she faces to believe in those around her while never being quite sure she should lower her guard. Easily this actress’s best performance. If the overall execution doesn’t quite match her skills Magnat still delights in the palpable strangeness that comes with different actors taking on the same characters with the original’s dubbed voices. What a marvelous way of being able to use names like Marianne Faithful and Valentina Vargas (from Bloody Mallory) for inexpensive marquee value! Faithful plays therapist H. Langenkamp by the way in one of the many genre nods Magnat playfully inserts into his endearingly wonky screenplay.

Almost acting as a lesser companion piece to the brilliant Julia’s Eyes, Magnat’s sleight-of-hand suspenser has an Argento vibe in the way the maniac’s identity is cleverly revealed. There’s a lot to enjoy in Faces in the Crowd, giallo lovers will especially find it most effective.

Source: Alan Jones