Well, this one certainly is a surprise. Prior to last week, Devoured was unknown to your humble reviewer. Hopefully it manages to find an audience, because for (what appears to be) next to nothing, it overcomes a very deliberate pace and establishes an odd, hard-to-define tension along with some effective jolts.
It also boasts an excellent lead performance. Lourdes (Marta Milans) is a young woman from El Salvador struggling to make money in New York City. She works at a restaurant/lounge, doing a little bit of everything, from tending bar to cleaning the floors. Its a thankless job but she is trying to make enough money to pay for the medical care of her sick son. He is back in El Salvador and needs surgery.
From the start its clear that something is off with Lourdes. There are hints that someone is watching her, but she also sees things and people that arent there, and its tough to tell if she is just overwhelmed with worry or genuinely losing her mind.
From time to time we glimpse a creepy, pale man on a security camera. What does he want with Lourdes? For more than hour, it is difficult to decipher exactly what is going on or what type of movie Devoured is. It follows Lourdes around the restaurant as she tidies up and makes occasional phone calls home. Theres very little dialogue for long stretches of time, and the movie almost never leaves the restaurant.
Despite the lack of action or clarity, and a very slow pace, your attention never wavers. Most of that is due to Lourdes. She is exceptional, completely selling the emotional upheaval and creating a sympathetic character who also might be insane. She keeps your attention and is the main reason the movie is successful. It isnt flawless though. There are some genre clichés, including overuse of boo scares and incredibly loud music to try and frighten viewers.
Other than Lourdes, the performances vary in quality. And while its not necessarily a weakness, Devoured is almost unrelentingly bleak. Everyone at work is awful to Lourdes, and it wallows in misery a little bit. Those are minor beefs though, and the ending is strong.
It isnt entirely shocking and fits with what comes before it. Refreshingly, it avoids being overly complicated and doesnt try to trick the viewer. Devoured might not be an instant classic, but its a good example of accomplishing a lot with a little, and its a solid, low-key thriller.