“DEVIL’S PATH” is a LGBTQ thriller hitting Video on Demand March 5th directed by Matthew Montgomery. This film stars Stephen Twardokus and JD Scalzo as two men who randomly encounter each other in a wooded park that gay men frequently use for casual hookups. Soon their chance meeting takes a dark turn. This park has recently been known for attacks on men and even some disappearances. Something these two strangers will learn first hand as they become the next target of a deadly scenario that pulls them deep into the secluded forest.
Anyone familiar with my opinion on films will know I love a tense thriller that can lure me into the world of the story to connect me with the tension felt by the characters. The plot-line in this one was simple enough for a naturally suspenseful narrative and it delivers on that. It was compelling. It maintained my attention and even more, my curiosity as it peeled the layers of the story-line back in a timely fashion. Also by following the main characters for nearly the entirety of the run-time I was able to get to know them and invest myself in the mystery behind each which was a strong positive.
This random encounter between two strangers felt sincere early on. As a viewer you learn of the backdrop to each in real-time as they get to know one another. But there is a constant feeling that not all is as it seems. There is much more to these men. Much more to their history, and I enjoyed how the story maintained a smooth progression to the truths learned along the way as the cloak of secrecy was exposed. This exploration of the characters true intentions throughout the development of the main plot was a great second dynamic. It built genuine intrigue to complement the overall suspense felt from their being hunted by someone in the woods and it was effective in maintaining my interest to see where things would go.
The story keeps a swift pace and doesn’t waste time. I felt the writing was concise and very natural to create an authentic personality for each character. Which was certainly elevated by the two lead performances. Both Twardokus and Scalzo provided these characters a ton of energy and emotion. They delivered performances that were superior than many in the Video on Demand market and they were the reason this was the emotionally gripping story it turned out to be. Their portrayals were down-to-earth making them feel like two normal guys. But throughout the film, both were able to create waves of uncertainty with their expressions that made their posturing for the truth as compelling as it was intended to be.
Matthew Montgomery’s direction was excellent. This is a small-budget film but with the choice of locations, how Montgomery framed the shots, and his use of natural lighting, this movie felt appealingly polished at times. Free of the studio flare, this movie feels intimate. Like a peek in on the lives of two men seeking refuge from attackers in the dense forest. Not two actors performing roles. And I thought it was more than effective at bringing me not only into the framework of the narrative with them, but also able to grasp the fears and anxiety they felt as well. Which is something any successful thriller hopes to accomplish.
On the downside, while I did thoroughly enjoy this movie there were some small hindrances. I feel the timeline could have been more transparent. I think had it been a little easier to pinpoint when certain events happened chronologically that it could have gone a long way in conveying the true impact of the third-act. There were also a couple small plot-holes that were momentarily distracting, more so because of the small doses of dialogue used to reveal certain happenings. I think certain seeds in the story could have been planted possibly sooner as well. But as I mentioned these were small hindrances because overall this was a surprisingly engaging thriller. One that worked in splashes of social commentary with a subtly that I felt made them hit with even more of a dramatic punch. So, if you like tense thrillers with well-crafted foreboding atmospheres then this film is definitely recommended.