From 1992 until 2016, I was a regular commuter from the UK to the USA; back in the day, it was always a bonus to pop into a video shop and select a few titles that hadn’t been released in the UK for one reason or another. That second tier of almost movies to fill the shelves now seem to have found their home on streaming; yes, there’s new movies every day on Netflix, Prime and others, but they’re not necessarily the one you’re looking for. Nonetheless, there are a few minor nuggets at the bottom of every pan, and writer/director Chris Von Hoffman’s chatty thriller is worth pointing out to genre fans seeking something a little off-the-menu.
The draw here is Radha Mitchell, a popular actress with over 80 credits from Neighbours onwards, but rarely given a role that allows her to show her skills like Eliza, a demonologist who gets contacted by an aspiring but somewhat thick LA actor, Clayton (Timothy Granaderos). He’s researching a potential breakout role over a weekend, with the call-back set for Monday morning, but which side is Eliza on? Is she a demon, a demonologist, a good actress, or just a fraud? She also seems to have an acetylene torch, so maybe she’s a welder by day and demonologist by night, but that’s a whole other movie…
The Devil’s Workshop is at its best when Eliza and Clayton are sparring; there’s cheeky mention of tarnished guru David Mamet here, and The Devil’s Workshop gives the actors the chance to develop their characters in a way that involves, an actor’s devil’s workshop if you like. The acting is equally good in a secondary story, about how Clayton’s rival Donald (Emile Hirsch) spends his preparatory weekend, but while the thematic parallels are clear, this diversion doesn’t feel vital to the main story, which does pay off in some gnarly horror scenes towards the end.
Dropping on Prime in the UK with zero fanfare, The Devil’s Workshop is an actors’ piece that, despite some annoying flashy edits and junky interstatials, should work for patient, literate audiences seeking something more than just jump scares. Connecting Californian culture to occult matters, this could be set in the same cruel, bleak universe as Hereditary’s equally bleak Utah; despite a few pacing problems and an abrupt ending, The Devil’s Workshop is an effective intro for the talent involved, and for Mitchell, ill-served by many roles to date, it’s a show-reel that demonstrates a real talent in a tricky, dramatic, somewhat diabolical turn.
Mitchell has done some decent work though quite often in the horror field. Not so sure I’m keen on chattiness, having had all the monologue I can take thanks to Pearl.
Just once wouldn’t it be grand to see an indie devilish demon’ish movie that wasn’t a christian based cliche? While there may be ‘devils in the house of the rising Sun,’ they don’t fare well in the South when matched against fiddle players named Johnnie, cunning folk, or Voudonists/Appalachian grannies …in fact, there’ve sometimes embraced and invited to Sunday supper. What would a film about socializing with devils look like?
The premise as you describe it has decent potential. I can confirm not all demonologists work for the dark side, the pay is lousy (whereas a decent dermatologist can make up to $400K/year) & apprenticeship is long, 2/3s scholarly & rigorous… I’m intrigued by your mention of this as ‘actor’s piece,’ and diabolical impression of film. The trailer looks good and you’re right about Mitchell’s talents. Thanks!
This is a good ride when asking a few good questions; who presents themselves as a demonologist and why? For a while, it challenges the cliches of the genre, before settling back to cliches. As with witchcraft in films, we still seem to be harping back to the past in adhering to old thinking, even when it’s been discredited. If this pops up on your streamer, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts. As I said, the sections where it walks the tightrope are effective in an Oleanna way, even if the punchline is rote…
I’m patient and literate but I’m out too. A nope but you probably expected that.
But you have contributed to a meaningful discussion about men’s undercrackers, so let’s call it a win.
I’ll take that.
For patient, literate audiences . . .
That’s it, I’m out.
Aren’t you both? At the same time?
I’ve been a patient. Literally. But I despised The English Patient.
Hated the book, liked the film, loved the soundtrack. But it’s no Cocaine Bear.
You’re not English, are you?
Not unless you go back a few hundred years.
That’s not an option for me right now.
Fraggle is English. And she even has patients.
You have won comment of the day. Worked the elements, delivered the gag. Are you here all week?
This is true! I am! I do! Now what?
I’m afraid Dix has some shady proposition in mind involving cross-border black-market organ dealing.
wut? Who’se interested in your organs? I heard you’ve got a mighty Wurlitzer, but it’s in need of repair?
Am I getting paid then?
As long as you don’t break the seal on the cooler. But you don’t want to know what’s in there anyway.
As for when you get paid, you might want to ask Booky. He’s still waiting for a solid gold dumptruck to make its way through the Ossippee Mountains to his front door.
I hear the voice of The Dukes of Hazzard narrator when I read this.
There’s a cure for that.
I should hope so.
Well, little Alex never believes what old Booky said, but the next day, a solid golf dump truck turned up on his lawn, and Booky found himself in a septic tank till nightfall!
Was this the prelude to DEvil wears Prada? First we saw it in its workshop/ the origins of the Prada’s?
Yup, you can see the actual table where Anna Wintour was constructed, and Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci are both seen in cameos.
The Devil’s Workshop.
Is that where he makes all his pitchforks and capes?
No, very ordinary stuff, just a certain amount of woodwork and some sanding.
How does he do woodwork? I’d think it would all catch on fire and burn up?
Is THAT the secret catch of this movie? Man, that is laaaaaame-o!
No, he does the same safety precautions that every one else does. Ties his hair back, wears goggles when using the lathe.
The Devil’s Workshop.
Days without Major Accidents; 23.
But, and this is the question EVERYONE wants to know the answer to, is he a briefs or boxers guy?
Does this movie answer that burning question? Because I don’t feel like an actress can really call herself important until she’s played a role that helps the general public answer questions like that.
The correct answer is Jockeys.
Jockeys are for jockeys. And I doubt the main male protag in this movie wears them either. Or the female lead for that matter.
See, NOBODY wears jockeys. Why’d you even have to bring it up? Now the whole tone of this review is ruined and nobody will ever read it and we will all weep at the shame and ignominy of it.
ha, I shoulda been an actor myself. I can ham it up with the best of them…
I have no insight into the undercrackers of the cast of this film.
What is your problem with jockeys?
A man’s gotta breathe, that’s my problem with jockeys….
I’m a boxers person myself.
I’m kind of surprised at that. I figured you were the kilt au naturel kind of guy. you know, like your ancestors before you?
Boxers under the kilt is the 21st century way…
How do you moon the enemy then? Seems inefficient…
I have to move with the times, and mooning is no longer woke enough
What, you give them hugs now?
Hmm, hugging your enemy to death. Well, it is up close and personal. None of this impersonal stuff. I think the devil would approve. You could ask him to make you a hugging costume in his workshop.
His workshop is closed while Covid-restrictions are implemented; perspex screens, masks, break-out areas. Auld Nick isn’t very hands on, we just get emails and the occassional zoom call.
The clip below will give you some idea as to how a kilt is handled.
I’ll leave kilt handling to an expert like yourself. Wouldn’t want an amateur like myself to embarrass the entire scottish nation…
Not when we can embarass ourselves so well…
Papa’s got a squeeze box too? Devils approve of boa constrictors and, per the manual, snakes in general…
This was going on round the back of my house.
I do know what briefs and boxers are, but not sure what jockeys are if someone could elucidate thanks.
In brief (hahahahaah), they are boxers that are as tight and form fitting as briefs. they combine the worst of both imo.
Here’s a link to pix:
Ah Budgie Smugglers!! I do know them after all. Thanks Booky!
Well, that’s quite the name for them, Hahahaha 😀