AUGUST 10, 2012
I'm more forgiving on Exorcist wannabes than most of my peers, but even I can't muster up much of a defense for Devil Seed, which hits all the expected beats and offers almost nothing new to the table. In this sub-genre, the deck is stacked against you from the start, so when the filmmakers just settle for the same old shit that we've seen a million times, I have to wonder if they simply lost a bet or something - what was the incentive to make this movie when we basically already have it?
The closest it gets to a new (to me anyway) plot element is near the end of the 2nd act, when the demon attacks and apparently rapes her. Now, obviously that's just a lift from The Entity (yeah, we're not just dealing with The Exorcist here - it's an equal opportunity swipe-fest; The Omen and Rosemary's Baby are given their due as well), but the twist is that her boyfriend is accused of it, and everyone buys that story because they've been together for two years and still haven't slept together. Since it's not for his lack of trying, the story is believable to the other characters, and creates a potentially interesting dynamic as the boyfriend has been sleeping with the girl's roommate to get his rocks off, and now she's conflicted as well.
But we know it's not true! This should have been the thing that kicked the plot off, not a random subplot more than halfway through the movie. We've already seen the invisible force attack her, making cuts on her chest and flinging her around, not to mention all the crazy shit she sees every 5-10 minutes to keep the movie "exciting". Plus, the guy's a two-timing asshole, so there's no reason to feel bad for him - sure, he's innocent of rape, but it's not like any sane viewer would sympathize with him when he's been presented as a lying scumbag throughout the film. And the narrative doesn't allow him to really redeem himself, so it's just a total waste of time all around, made worse by the fact that it's the only new idea here. Well, unless you count having someone go to the library to research their issue ("possession", "exorcism") but using their own laptop the whole time - why go to the library? Just to have the obligatory library scene?
Everything else is taken almost directly out of Exorcist, including the fact that the priest has had a previous encounter with the demon in question. And perhaps writer/director/producer/editor Greg Sager knew we would just roll our eyes at the familiar storyline, because I can see no other explanation for the fact that the opening scene - the only time we see this priest until the third act - is a vague, nearly impossible to follow "story" of their encounter 40 years before. When he's finally brought back into the story, it's like "Oh, this must have been the guy in the prologue," as opposed to Merrin's iconic reintroduction in Exorcist after having been absent for a while after the 10 minute, memorable and coherent opening sequence in that film. So my guess is that Sager knew we Exorcist fans would get the gist from this random montage and could fill in the blanks ourselves?
In fact, I thought for sure that the deleted/extended scenes section, which ran for over 20 minutes, would have a lengthier version of the opening, or perhaps a few more scenes with the priest that would have been sprinkled throughout the narrative (as he's essentially Merrin and Karras rolled into one - in other words, there's absolutely no religious character or story presence at all until he shows back up), but alas, he doesn't appear once. Nearly all of the excised material is just the same sort of stuff we saw in the finished version - Alex getting spooked by something only for another character to come along and see nothing, Alex's roommates being puzzled by her behavior, etc. One scene is even shown twice for some reason, where she talks to her boyfriend about where he was the night before (the scene is titled "Suspicious" the first time around, and then "Where Were You?" when it comes up again). In 22 minutes there isn't a single thing that should have even been shot, let alone gotten edited into the film and then removed, as it's all just another example of something that was already there.
The other extras are even more worthless; a 4 minute blooper reel where most of it is just the cast/crew hanging out or goofing off in between takes (though I did chuckle at one of the few actual bloopers - her urine stream during the pee on the floor scene (yep, they even do that) hilariously comes off at a 45 degree angle, so the pee hits the floor to the left of her left leg), and the trailer, which gives away most of the big scare moments. Thus, the disc is completely free of insight from the filmmakers, which I think would be kind of crucial here - did they actively set out to make a love letter to Exorcist and get so blinded by their appreciation for it that they forgot to give their movie its own identity? Was it supposed to be a Doomsday-like homage to a particular sub-genre but not as successful due to budgetary limitations or something? Or is Sager (a first timer for all his roles here) just some enterprising real estate tycoon or something trying to turn one dollar into two by taking the can't-miss route of making a genre film, knowing it will find an audience thanks to people like me? We may never know. Or care.
I'll give him this much, the movie looks nice, and the FX are solid (levitation scene was quite impressive, in fact). I wasn't fooled by its attempts to pass off Canada as Boston, but at least they got a cutaway or two of Marlborough St (or one of those campus housing-friendly streets near Boston University, anyway), and the main girl was personable and did a fine job in possessed form as well. But when you're just going through the motions on the story level, all of that other stuff is moot - I'd much rather you told a new story (or at least a strong new take on an old one) in a movie that was shot with a camera you bought at Best Buy.
What say you?