In the 1990s two men cross paths on a perilous gay cruising trail deep into the woods, the socially awkward Noah (Stephen Twardokus) and seemingly self-assured Patrick (JD Scalzo). Soon events intensify as the two become embroiled in a dangerous cat and mouse game. But why are they being followed, and will they escape the woods alive?
Devil’s Path is the debut genre feature film from filmmaker and actor, Matthew Montgomery and co-written with lead actor, Stephen Twardokus. Featuring a small male-centric cast and keeping the action in one setting, Montgomery establishes a flair for creating insurmountable tension and gripping drama. On paper, Devil’s Path could be interpreted as a straightforward, run of the mill stalk and slash movie featuring LGBT characters, however, this is far from the case.
Devil’s Path feels like an observational film with the audience placed in a voyeuristic position. Noah and Patrick are introduced then their backstories and motivations are gradually revealed. The setup feels authentic as if we are watching real events unfold. The film is very much a slow-burn with Montgomery taking his time to establish three-dimensional characters who have glaringly contrasting reasons for being in the environment they’ve become caught up in. This factor aids the growing tension that the film boldly executes throughout.
At times the pacing comes to a standstill, derailing the plot from progressing forward. This is down to the dialogue-heavy script that almost has a theatrical, stage play quality to it. Certain moments of conversation are integral to the plot but then it’s as if these conversations become repeated and prolonged, with the film ultimately outstaying its welcome by the end once the revelations have spilled and the twists are unveiled.
Both Stephen Twardokus and JD Scalzo deliver strong performances as the lead roles, conveying an emotionally intense situation that could explode at any second. Twardokus is outstanding in playing the troubled Noah, he comes across as incredibly lost and haunted whereas Scalzo’s Patrick displays a superficial façade that soon unravels. Both are complex portrayals of two men coming to terms with who they are and what life means to them. Devil’s Path is a snapshot into the struggles of masculinity and is interestingly explored.
On a visual scale, Devil’s Path’s most striking asset is the serene cinematography by Stephen Tringali. He captures the beauty of nature and the picturesque surroundings which is boldly contrasted by the bleakness of the plot and the trail’s intended purpose by those who visit there. The location is utilized to its full potential; by keeping all the action in one place anxieties and tensions are further fuelled deploying an intense viewing experience.
Devil’s Path is a promising first feature and is impressive in how it avoids walking through all the expected horror clichés this kind of film so easily could have. At its core, it’s a story about two lost souls who find themselves in too deep due to their individual circumstances. Devil’s Path is a highly tense, character-driven, thematically dark psychological thriller that avoids falling into expected genre tropes. There are some ropey moments interwoven especially within the pace and the script which could have been edited down somewhat.
Overall, Devil’s Path is an interesting independent genre piece, that portrays homosexuality in horror with a serious tone, rather than being gimmicky or disrespectful. Refreshing and thought-provoking, Matthew Montgomery is a filmmaker with huge potential, putting his own stamp on LGBT genre filmmaking.