THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY, the first feature film from director Aislinn Clarke, is a found-footage horror film that combines demonic possession with the true history of Magdalene Laundries and the vicious treatment bestowed upon women at the hands of sadistic nuns. The film stars Lalor Roddy (Don't Leave Home), Ciaran Flynn (Hunger), Helena Bereen (Don't Leave Home), and Lauren Coe (The Halycon).
It's 1960 and Father Thomas Riley (Lalor Roddy) and Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) are on assignment from the Vatican to investigate reports that a statue of the Virgin Mary has begun crying tears of blood at an Irish Convent located in Northern Ireland. Father John has decided to take this opportunity to document their findings on film, much to the dismay of Father Thomas and Mother Superior (Helena Bereen). However, what they uncover is not only supernatural forces at play, but the vicious and horrific treatment displayed by these nuns, along with a demonic possession that might just destroy all who bear witness to it.
When it comes to found-footage films, people seem to either love them or hate them, with very little lee-way in between. If done right, I would definitely categorize myself as a fan of the found-footage sub-genre, and in the case of THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY, Aislinn Clarke does a brilliant job of crafting a taunt horror film from the perspective of Father John. What I truly loved about this film, though, is not just the found-footage angle, but the true stories surrounding Magdalene Laundries. I'll be honest, I knew nothing of these Laundries prior to watching the film and am now horrified by the treatments that were allowed to be executed by these nuns with the support of the Roman Catholic Church.
For those who may not be familiar with what Magdalene Laundries are, I've provided a brief description from Wikipedia to give you a glimpse into what these women endured: "The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland were institutions of confinement which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. They were run ostensibly to house 'fallen women', an estimated 30,000 of whom were confined in these institutions in Ireland. In 1993, a mass grave containing 155 corpses was uncovered in the convent grounds of one of the laundries." The article, which references authors Andrea Parrot and Nina Cummings, who wrote the Dublin Magdalen Asylum, stated "The cost of violence, oppression, and brutalization of women [in these establishments] is enormous." The article goes on to state that fallen women were "primarily referred to prostitutes, but by the end of the 19th century, Magdalene laundries were filled with many different kinds of women, including girls who were 'not prostitutes at all', but either 'seduced women' or women who had yet to engage in sexual activity." I could go on, but then I would never finish this review; however, I would highly suggest reading more into these accounts as it is another harrowing example of the treatment women have had to endure for centuries.
Having all that in mind, it makes this film that much more terrifying to watch. Of course there is the supernatural angle which encompasses demonic possession, and though that aspect doesn't reinvent the wheel, there is a realistic quality to it that not many found-footage films have. Add on the fact that it was filmed on actual film which gave the movie an even grittier feel. There is of course the standard tropes that we are all used to but what I appreciated about this film was it didn't solely rely on jumpscares or musical cues in order to try and frighten viewers. Lauren Coe, who plays Kathleen, does a fantastic job portraying a 'fallen' woman who has become possessed by a demonic entity. It's around this time, when we meet Kathleen, that the creepy factor ramps up, but make sure you keep your eyes peeled for more of the subtle details that will send chills down your spine.
It goes without saying that there is a lot to enjoy with THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY. Not only is it an effective found-footage horror film, but it's also the first horror film to be directed by a woman in Northern Ireland. Aislinn Clarke is, without a doubt, a rising talent and a creative force within the film world, as well as the horror genre, and I can't wait to see what she does next. Horror fans will definitely find enjoyment with THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY so make sure to check it out when it's released on Friday, July 13th in select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms in the U.S.