I’ve been interested in much of what Jinx Media has supplied horror geeks over the last few years. Say what you want about independent horror movies, but there are studios out there trying for originality, and Jinx Media seems to be accomplishing it for the most part. First there was “Killer Killer,” which I found to be an utter blast, and now the UK based studio brings “The Devil’s Music.” Pat Higgins’ mock documentary, a film that will completely bring down audiences guards presuming to be one thing and then progressively transforms into a horror movie. Surely, it’s one of the finest indies of 2008, with production values that are immaculate. Everything from the mock concert performances, to the talk show interviews is shockingly genuine, and the story of Erika Spawn is even better.
Victoria Hopkins is utterly fantastic (and smoking hot) as Goth rocker Erika Spawn, a satanic showman who leads a trail of controversy and disgust where ever she performs. A mixture of Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Rotten with tits, Spawn and her band start from the grim underground origins where she clawed her way up to a massive tour and rabid fan base. Things become gradually grim when director Higgins switches to home footage taken by one of the band mates filming back stage where he comes across loyal fan Stef Regan who is at first very humble, but soon latches on to the group when Spawn takes a liking to her. The notion that she snuck back stage without being noticed is something noted but never particularly addressed until much later on.
She’s bubbly and giggly and seems very enamored when Spawn confronts her and befriends her. The direction taken with Stef makes for some of the most morbid material as her personality unravels in front of the band mates who first dislike her and then attempt to exploit her for fun. As the screw turn, things take a brutal turn for the worse as Stef grows more and more obsessed and dominant over Spawn, and Spawn suffers the brunt of her psychotic breakdown. Higgins direction is incredible, and that’s proven in one scene back stage where Stef decides to demonstrate her love for Spawn through a vicious act of violence, later confused for performance art.
This one scene is a demonstration of the found footage sub-genre done right as we only see an outsider’s view and a realistic reaction from Spawn while performing. Match that with Lucy Dunn’s wonderful performance as this unsettling introvert, and it’s pretty much a powerful look at fan obsession, and the landslide continues when Spawn returns from the incident with all sanity MIA. True, the definitive message for the movie is a bit muddled, Higgins does take some shots at media exploitation, the power of music, and the danger of letting fans get too intimate with people they deify and worship. All the while he literalizes the inherent lethal results of warring musicians and the constant insinuation that Goth rock is the link to Satanism, which makes for the chaotic finale that only amp up the tension further.
I’m still trying to figure out what the hell the ending even meant. Was it intentionally ambiguous for the audience to speculate on long after the credits have rolled, or was it all just fuzzy and muddled? Apparently, “The Devil’s Music” can never decide what movie it’s trying to be and what message it’s conveying. It begins as a look at the rise of the controversial rock star, then delves into exploitation of tragedy and the dangerous repercussions of exploiting fandom and then suspiciously becomes a horror film with some odd developments that unfold. Was Robin really the anti-Christ? Was he a warrior? Was Erika the anti-Christ? Did he kill her? Did Robin run a Satanic cult?
When Higgins’ mockumentary ended, I was wondering what had just developed in front of me and couldn’t really make up my mind. Was this all just a vicious tale of warring musicians, or something supernatural? If the latter, then why? What did it have to prove when the incident involving Stephie was horrific enough? That aspect of “The Devil’s Music” is sadly void of answers and any direction. “The Devil’s Music” is incredibly well put together, and sucked me in once the confessionals began with the strong collective performances (Jess-Luisa Flynn, and Cy Henty are respective stand outs). Every single element of the mock documentary is powerful, and Higgins has a near masterpiece on his hands. In spite of the fuzzy, unclear second half, “The Devil’s Music” is a wonderful mock documentary horror film with incredible performances, brilliant commentary, and a tone that will ensure it cult classic status. Look for it at festivals.