An extraordinarily effective and deeply thoughtful film, The Devil’s Doorway is the story of two priests who are sent to investigate a supposed miracle in an Irish home for “sinful women”. What they discover in the home is just as horrific as the very real truth behind the film’s subject matter.
A found-footage film with an intelligent focus and clear passion behind it. There’s a sentence that is very rarely written. Its 1960 period setting also adds to the uniqueness with almost the entire movie being shot on 16mm film. The Devil’s Doorway occasionally drifts into a jump scare film, but that is not to say the odd jump scare is not effective.
Thankfully, the film never loses its main focus of exploring the horrifyingly true situation that many Irish women were forced into by the church. Commenting on the infamous Magdalene Laundries, the last of which astoundingly only closed in 1996, where “sinful women” would be sent and treated horribly by those who professed to be doing the Lord’s work.
It is this very real horror that makes The Devil’s Doorway so much more than a standard found footage film. Northern Irish director, Aislinn Clarke has turned an extremely low budget of £230k into an incredibly impressive, traumatising, gripping and uncomfortably claustrophobic film. It is no lie to say that you feel very trapped by this film; it grabs hold of you and opens your eyes to the double standards of Irish Catholicism while also working as a truly chilling take on religious horror and possession.
Lalor Roddy (Hunger) plays Father Thomas Riley with a starkly real intensity and insecurity that is maximised thanks to the found footage format and Helena Bereen gives a devilishly sinister performance as the Mother Superior at the home. A certainly enjoyable element of The Devil’s Doorway is the very honest performances. It’s clear that the small cast feel as passionately about this subject matter as Aislinn Clarke does and it works wonders for the film.
In terms of the story itself, it’s an intense tale of possession and discomfort that we often see in religious horror films, but the way the intensity consistently builds while throwing in the odd crowd-pleasing jump scare is expertly done. At risk of spoiling any of the very enjoyable story that is all that can be said.
The Devil’s Doorway is far more interested in simply showing the kind of horrendous conditions many Irish women endured for over 200 years and how the Catholic church is well known for covering up its dark secrets. It is this underlying subject matter that really makes the film work. The uncomfortable atmosphere, the horrifying imagery and the twist-filled story are all wonderful but it wouldn’t work if not for the passion to explore this dark subject.
One of the most impressively effective horror films in recent memory, especially when you consider its budget, The Devil’s Doorway is a film that will get under your skin in many ways and on many levels. You’ll be startled and scared in regards to the story, but you’ll be terrified and left feeling deeply affected by what that story has to say. Do not miss it!