The Devil's Bargain Movie Review
Packed with groovy 1970s style, this micro-budget British horror is rough around the edges but holds our attention with its hypnotic visuals. Aside from a love-in prologue, there are only three characters on-screen, circling each other as they wait for the end of the world. But there are all kinds of issues gurgling under the surface, as well as some more overt freak-out thrills.
It's 1974, and Adi and Angi (Hurn and Farnworth) have gone into the countryside to prepare for the apocalypse. Still grieving over the death of their young son (Brown in flashbacks) four years earlier, they want to focus on happiness and love, so strip naked to cavort in nature. Then they notice Luca (Burman) photographing them from the bushes, and when they confront him everything takes a devilish turn. Adi is forced to re-evaluate his relationship with Angi, and may not be able to make peace with her, or with his own internal demons, before the world's end. So maybe oblivion is a good thing.
Writer-director Cullingham assembles this as if it was actually made in 1974, with homemade Super 8-style images that are drenched in colour and shadows as the sun hangs low in the sky. The film is infused with a hippy vibe, as the apocalypse is narrated by an increasingly drunken radio station deejay (Williams). And there are plenty of witty touches all the way through, from references to period films like Barry Lyndon and Women in Love to the running Adam and Eve parallels. Aside from all the apples, there's also this diabolical interloper.
On the other hand, the characters feel underdeveloped. Hurn's Adi is especially odd, a pacifist whose first reaction is always violence. And Farnworth and Burman struggle to make their characters any more consistent. Everyone keeps swapping loyalties, provoking the others and behaving erratically. So each actor drifts into hammy melodrama at times. At least this makes them intriguing. And the mystical elements add plenty of eeriness as things get nasty. But the story begins to feel repetitive and aimless, so we wonder if some judicial editing might have made this a more ripping half-hour short.
Cast & Crew
Director : Drew Cullingham
Producer : Drew Cullingham, Ian Manson
Screenwriter : Drew Cullingham
Starring : Jonnie Hurn, Chloe Farnworth, Dan Burman, A.J. Williams, Lulu Briggs, George Brown, Ian Manson, Victoria Ruskin