Devil’s Den

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“The final battle for the soul of mankind will be fought in a bar full of possessed strippers.” Best. Tagline. Ever.

Sadly, despite the above tagline, the movie doesn’t quite live up to expectations. It has some very interesting ideas, but kinda goes about them the wrong way: I love the idea of a government task-force that roams the world, taking out vampires, werewolves, etc. I enjoy the concept of government-sponsored assassins, working on behalf of pissed-off senators. Instead, for the most part, the film wants desperately to be From Dusk Till Dawn – an admirable target, for sure, even if it falls short on almost every level. Vamp is another obvious touchstone for the script, which has Quinn (Sawa) stop off at the titular strip-club on his way back from Mexico, only to find the buffet is of the patrons, not for the patrons. Fortunately, government agent Leonard (Foree) is there too, looking for the queen of the ghouls, and so is Caitlin (Hu), a two-gun lady whose purpose in attending the venue is less clear. Decapitations ensue.

Perhaps part of the problems with the flick, is that the director – originally Jeff (Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) Burr – took his name off the pic after getting fired by the writer, Mitch Gould. Gould then completely re-edited the picture and wrecked it, according to Burr, who says it was “A fun bad movie, with energy and personality. Now it is just a bad movie.” It certainly has its flaws: there’s remarkably little flesh for a strip-club, especially one that promises ‘Live Nude Girls’ – depending on your definition,. at least one and possibly two-thirds of that promotion is entirely unfulfilled. Some of the mask FX also appear to be of the Halloween leftover variety, and there is generally just too much restraint. It is the kind movie that needs to go gloriously over-the-top, if it’s to stand any chance of a credible comparison with the titles it’s aping [not least on the DVD cover shown right].

That said, there is a fair amount to enjoy here, with the performances, particularly of Foree and Sawa, being entertaining. Sawa is perfect as a stoner dude who, while initially freaked out for obvious reasons, eventually comes to terms with what’s going on: during the climatic fight between Caitlin and the queen ghoul, he just sits there with a goofy grin on his face, taking it in like we all would. Foree, a horror icon since his performance in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, also delivers a quirky turn, and there’s a sublime sequence where he and Quinn, both fans of cinematic samurai Zatoichi, imagine what the blind swordsman would do in their shoes. Hu’s role builds gradually throughout the film, and eventually brings this into GWG territory, which I wasn’t expecting initially. She handles the action scenes fairl well, covering all the bases with gunplay, sword skills and martial arts – I note that one of the stuntwomen on the film is Zoe Bell, whom you should remember from her role in Death Proof. If the potential is never fully realized, there is enough going on to make it a pleasant-enough way to spend 85 minutes.

Dir: “Andrew Quint” [but see above]
Star: Kelly Hu, Devon Sawa, Ken Foree, Karen Maxwell

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