It’s shocking how “I Trapped the Devil” is Josh Lobo’s feature film debut, because this is a man who is obviously not content with just delivering a horror film, but has put very meticulous care in to how he frames just about every single shot in his own horror tale. “I Trapped The Devil” is a single setting film that comes to life thanks to director Josh Lobo’s amazing ability to make every corner of character Steve’s small house seem menacing, sinister, and teeming with potential to destroy every character that enters in to the threshold of this cursed abode.
When Matt and his wife Karen go to visit his estranged brother Steve at his home on Christmas night to celebrate the holidays, they are stunned when Steve reveals a horrific secret. Donning a gun, he reveals that he’s trapped a man in his basement behind a locked door. The man is not just dangerous, but he is in fact the devil incarnate. As Matt and Karen struggle to comprehend Steve’s predicament, they try to reason with him and figure out if he’s completely lost all sense of reality, or if he’s committed a heinous crime. Or maybe–Steve really did trap the devil himself.
“I Trapped the Devil” is easily the most chilling film I’ve seen in 2019 so far, and I say that as someone that found “Us” to be genuinely spooky. Josh Lobo’s film is a slow boil and deliberately crafted horror story that mounts tension on tension, packs in so many surprises, and cleverly sneaks in nuanced moments of inherent terror. “I Trapped the Devil” is so packed with small, finer touches that Josh Lobo’s film promises to reward viewers with something new with every repeated viewing. I wasn’t at all sure what I was entering in to when watching “I Trapped the Devil,” but director Lobo keeps every piece of his horror tale teetering on the brink of chaos. Once everything in the narrative finally draws to a close, not only are you relieved, but you’re also filled with an immense feeling of dread and disbelief.
“I Trapped the Devil” isn’t just an homage to “The Twilight Zone,” but it’s a remarkable exploration of the toll that grief and guilt can take on us, and how we can consistently beat ourselves up to where we’ve lost any and semblance of what was our own undoing, and what simply was just reality unfolding. Josh Lobo examines the concept of morality and what we and others can pinpoint as unbiased darkness. What may seem like just downright remorseless, vile evil to one person may just be something completely different to others, and that is constantly placed in front of us as the tensions rise between the trio of characters. Is Steve merely just trapping someone that did him wrong and indulging in a sense of torture that helps him feel personally justified? Are Matt and Karen wrong for being unwilling to see his point of view? Or is there simply no point of view at all?
Is evil just irredeemable blackness that stains humanity like a disease? Can we trap it or snuff it out or are we doomed to its eternal torment thanks to our inherent sense of mercy and empathy? “I Trapped the Devil” works on infinite layers as a dissection of our baser beliefs, the pain of sadness and isolation, and as a pure monster movie that rewards the viewer with a slam bang, pretty damn spooky climax. Josh Lobo directs a wonderful cast including AJ Bowen, and Susan Burke, while Scott Poythress is compelling as the ambiguous protagonist of the piece that’s slowly coming apart the longer he’s consumed by this situation. “I Trapped the Devil” is a horror gem that you owe to yourself to watch. It’s a brilliant homage to “The Twilight Zone” that entertains, spooks, and will linger long after its ended.
In Select Theaters and on VOD April 26th.