DEVIL’S PATH *** USA 2018 Dir: Matthew Montgomery. 87 mins
Actor Matthew Montgomery’s feature directing debut (which he co-wrote with star Stephen Twardokus) is a bleak, absorbing character-driven thriller set in the early 1990’s. Sensible Midwesterner Noah (Twardokus) carries around a pack of tarot cards, wears his insecurities on his sleeve and is looking for love rather than sex at a popular hiking trail / pick-up point for gay men. He meets his polar opposite, Patrick (J D Scalzo), an asthmatic, elusive EMT who claims to be from “all over” and is seeking sex rather than a chance to get to know someone.
A fleeting dialogue allusion to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT precedes their own traumatic experience in the woods, wandering into territory recently infamous for attacks on young men. Unusually thoughtful and restrained, this introspective piece pivots around a compelling dynamic between the two men. The standoffish Patrick proves to have just as many weaknesses as the more obviously troubled abuse survivor Noah, while Noah proves to be stronger in nature than around other people while searching for a missing brother who just happens to be Patrick’s ex. Personal demons are unveiled and tensions mount in a film whose most dramatic moments are of psychological cruelty rather than physical violence. Twardokus’ performance grounds it as an impressively sombre drama about just one missing person case in a world full of overlooked, equally tragic mysteries. Theatrical in style and script, it may have been even stronger as a short, but it’s a bold and involving film all the same.
Review by Steven West