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Devil’s Mile

World Premiere
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Hosted by Writer/Director Joseph O'Brien

A black Cadillac roars through a rural landscape drained of colour. In the driver’s seat is an excitable criminal named Toby (David Hayter); his passengers are his accomplices Cally (Maria Del Mar) and Jacinta (Casey Hudecki) — plus a couple of “packages” in the trunk, being delivered to feared crime boss Mr. Arkadi (Frank Moore). But there’s more to be scared of in their immediate future: After it comes out that there’s a serious problem with one of their captives, their attempt to take a shortcut leads them past a discarded “Road Closed” sign and onto a stretch of blacktop traversing into supernatural territory. Soon they are encountering bloody and ghostly apparitions, one of which delivers a warning that proves to be a promise: “The road will never let you go…”

DEVIL’S MILE represents a confluence of figures from various regions of the horror scene. Writer/director Joseph O’Brien is a longtime contributor to RUE MORGUE magazine; one of the executive producers was Colin Geddes, majordomo of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight section (who also backed last year’s Fantasia world premiere THE DEMON’S ROOK); and the score was provided by Chris Alexander, who (full disclosure) is this writer’s FANGORIA editorial partner-in-crime. Add a snarling acting turn by longtime anime/video-game voicer and X-MEN/WATCHMEN screenwriter Hayter, a pair of co-stars more than capable of holding their own against him, and the malevolent presence of Moore (Marilyn Chambers’ boyfriend in David Cronenberg’s RABID), and you’ve got the ingredients for a fully committed combination of road/crime saga and supernatural terror.

While adhering to the profane and spectral standards of the two genres it mixes up (the ethnicity of the two captives is an early hint of the influences that will inform O’Brien’s spookery), DEVIL’S MILE weaves them together smoothly. That consistency is partially due to the fact that the filmmaker’s key theme is one common to both outlaw dramas and ghost stories: the inevitability of fate. As Toby, Cally and Jacinta confront the ever-more-frightening consequences of their actions, O’Brien leavens the jolts and outbursts of bad attitude with occasional fillips of black humor, while Alexander’s music twangs and hums ominously under the surface. As the trio attempt to escape the Devil’s Mile, they succeed only in plunging themselves deeper into the heart of darkness, and all the audience can do is hang on and enjoy the ride.

— Michael Gingold