DIRECTOR Sean Hogan WRITER Sean Hogan STARS Billy Clarke; Jack Gordon; Jonathan Hansler DVD Now
Sometimes it is the smaller, unassuming packages that surprise, and The Devil’s Business is one such pleasurable example, a shoestring budget and somewhat hammy acting belying an insidiously creepy effect.
It is a simple premise: two hitmen, one an experienced professional, the other his distracted apprentice, are sent on what ought to be a standard job. Quietly letting themselves into the target’s house, they find the skinned head of an animal on an altar, indicating some black art tendencies on his part. Cully (Jack Gordon), the younger of the pair, is startled by this, but Pinner (Billy Clarke) has seen it all and only cares for clean efficiency. Even he, however, is thrown by evidence of full-blown rituals in the shed, and when Kist (Jonathan Hansler), their target, arrives unexpectedly early, all hell breaks loose.
It is a hell that breaks loose quietly, which is what truly makes The Devil’s Business. This is a film that tells its story almost entirely by dialogue, essentially hanging itself over just two monologues. Gory moments are therefore kept to a minimum and when they do appear, are only presented in the aftermath — likely due to monetary restraints, but this complements the understatement of this chamber-piece number. It is unfortunate that the final reveal is not quite so underplayed, the sheer badness of the prosthetics robbing the impact a little.
But only a little. The Devil’s Business had meted its tension effectively, and a convincingly unsettling performance from Jonathan Hansler as the man who has done a deal with the Devil himself, ties this all up rather neatly. It’s a film that certainly has flaws, writer/director Sean Hogan’s strengths more in the former than the latter, but the writing is of quality enough to carry the rest.