Whenever a horror film opens with the words “Based on true events,” I always strongly suspect it’s going to be some bullshit. Those suspicions were thoroughly justified by Jason DeVan’s comically inept debut Along Came the Devil, a low-budget knockoff of The Exorcist with shamelessly copy-pasted ideas and a tedious insistence on the demon-banishing powers of Catholicism.
Along Came the Devil opens with several wordy paragraphs of explanatory on-screen text, presumably because the writers – Jason DeVan and his wife, Heather – couldn’t figure out a way to naturally link the events of the standard flashback prologue with the ten-years-later plot of the film proper. I admit I still had some issues figuring out who everyone was supposed to be, but then again I kept descending into a weird fugue state which tends to kick in as a defence mechanism against such feeble filmmaking.
Ashley (Sydney Sweeney, late of Everything Sucks! and Sharp Objects) is the typical high-schooler who attracts the devil’s attention when she returns to her hometown with her aunt, Tanya (Jessica Barth), following the death of her abusive father and the disappearance of her mysterious mother. Reuniting with her old bestie, Hannah (Madison Lintz), and a standard dull love-interest, Shane (Austin Filson), Ashley attracts the usual dark forces by trying to communicate with spirits through mirrors – which is just asking for trouble.
And trouble she finds. Along Came the Devil has the usual abundance of fleeting shadows and suddenly noisy soundtrack cues, coupled with the cutesy early stages of demonic possession, which apparently cause young women to sling on short shorts and low-cut tops and go out to get laid. Eventually the devil overtakes Ashley so completely that she attracts the attention of the handsome Pastor John (Matt Dallas) and his superior, Reverend Michael (Bruce Davison), the latter of whom has two of the key things needed to combat demons in horror movies: 1) lots of books on demonology and 2) a rather obvious connection to the lead character’s familial trauma. You can work out much of the rest.
We do get to see the devil himself, who appears in traditional fashion with wonky goat legs and horns and terrible sunburn, and the latter stages are marred by an overreliance on unconvincing effects. There’s some shallow stuff about religion to be enjoyed and/or laughed at depending on your disposition, and several rather obvious instances of Along Came the Devil having been sliced up and rearranged during its production. The sheer derivativeness will likely annoy even the most enthusiastic genre fans, and the general incompetence will put off everybody else.