Here’s an odd little zombie flick that just recently came across my desk/kitchen table. Written, directed, and edited by James Ryan Gary, DEVIL’S CROSSING is a difficult film to nail down. It’s clearly a zombie film; that much is obvious. But it feels as though Gary was trying to give us a wholly different and new approach to the over-saturated zombie genre. Story-wise we get something unique, but does it work?
Welcome to the town of Celestial. Population: About 30 people, all currently getting snookered in the local tavern. We get the typical characters in your standard Western like the cowardly bartender; the tough yet hot madam running a whore house out of the tavern; the town thug; the town drunk; and so on. So this is a Western, right? I can live with that. But then you start to notice subtle things like inconsistencies in the “Old West” clothing and with the weapons they’re using. Wait; this really isn’t a Western, is it? Kinda. Somewhere along the way (and I must admit that I completely missed this part), we learn that earth went through a devastating nuclear war and what’s left of humanities tattered remains has resorted to living like cowboys in old Western-like settings. Like I said, I missed this explanation and only learned of it in the summary on IMDb.com!!
Anywhoo … In the beginning there’s a segment involving the town thug/bully, McDermitt (Chris Walters) that seems to go on a little too long (okay; a lot too long). He’s enters the tavern, bangs a whore upstairs, everyone is afraid of him, he bully’s some locals, and beats the shit out of others. You know … fun stuff to do to kill the night. But the scenes with McDermitt go on for way too long, especially since the plot never circles back and incorporates him into the story. For that much set-up you’d think writer Gary had a big/pivotal role in mind for McDermitt. Nope. It was also difficult to imagine that in the entire town, not one person was willing to stand up to him. Hell; there was ample opportunity to gang up on him and kick the balls out of him.
Eventually McDermitt messes with the wrong guy. Sitting in the corner minding his own business is Shadrach (Michael Sharpe); doing his best Man With No Name impression and belting down shots of milk. Wait, what? Yup. After Shadrach deals with McDermitt, we learn he’s in town waiting for another stranger, Franklin. We then get a lot of talking. A lot. No seriously … A LOT. We learn that Shadrach and Franklin have a long history together and that Franklin “owns” Shadrach. Shadrach is a collector and is sick of doing all of Franklin’s dirty work. He wants out of the contract he has with Franklin, but Franklin tells him the contract can never be broken.
And then we get more talking.
And then more talking.
Franklin tells him that he’s been tracking down Shadrach and has brought an army of zombies with him. If Shadrach doesn’t come back he’s gonna release that horde on this small, unexpecting town. What’s that? You said I never mentioned what it is Shadrach is collecting. You’re right because it’s a very confusing and overly complicated explanation. Shadrach holds his ground and finally the zombies attack. I stuck with this one because I was determined to see some zombie action, and I’m glad I stayed. Yes, filmmaker Gary gets way too heady and throws silly explanations our way that are more confusing the more they get explained. But once the zombies attack, DEVIL’S CROSSING gets pretty fun. There’s nothing new going on here, but Gary films the zombie parts with the glee of a kid who just discovered sugar. The very slow (very slow) build up at least has a reward at the end.
Visually I really enjoyed the look of the film. This is no doubt a low budget outing, but Gary manages to shoot a very professional-looking movie. The picture is crisp and clean and I love the color palette used and the contrasting colors it creates. It added a dimension of depth to the overall tone of the film. And when the zombies finally attack everyone comes alive (no pun intended) and the film’s pace finally picks up. The zombie makeup and gore f/x were also pretty well done. Nothing was excessively gory here, but what there was was well executed.
DEVIL’S CROSSING will definitely have you scratching your head. It’s not a terrible film (although the slow pace in the entire first quarter of the film will turn a lot of people off), but it also isn’t as clever and original as it thinks it is. The entire McDermitt-terrorizing-the-townspeople subplot was way too drawn out and boring. We get it; McDermitt is a violent dick, move on!! And the entire exchange between Shadrach and Franklin was overly complicated and confusing. But still, there’s some pretty decent zombie carnage but it all ends way too soon, considering how long we were waiting for it. Zombie completists will enjoy this one, but most people will find it too boring and muddled to care about.
Director: James Ryan Gary (& writer & editor)
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars (I gave him a few points for at least trying to be original)
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 brains
Zombie Mayhem: 4 our of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer