Set entirely within the confines of a single house, I Trapped the Devil creates wonderful tension by combining a claustrophobic setting with the highest stakes imaginable.
The film follows a couple attempting to reconnect with their estranged brother Steve (Scott Poythress) over Christmas. They show up unannounced at his house to find him even more hostile than they had anticipated. After putting in a lot of effort to forge a new sense of trust, they learn that Steve has kidnapped a man who he believes to be the devil himself and has him trapped in the basement.
Once the film gets underway, layers of ambiguity combine with a deliberate lack of detail to create a deep sense of mystery. Information about the two brothers’ past relationship is thin on the ground, and this level of uncertainty only increases as the film progresses.
With convincingly anxious and uncomfortable mannerisms, Scott Poythress’ performance as Steve contributes hugely to the creepy atmosphere. Long before anything is said out loud, his behaviour creates the impression that there is something much bigger than you can imagine going on. His nervous presence generates an infectious sense of paranoia.
It’s a performance that also makes you wonder, as he starts to confess his secrets, what is really going on inside his mind. His behaviour could absolutely be indicative of the terror of someone who has genuinely come face-to-face with evil incarnate – or it could equally be the unhinged twitches of someone grappling with serious delusions.
For a long time, the audience is left with with no answers. How you interpret what you see before you may well depend entirely on your own relationship with faith, reality and religion. Perhaps your idea of the events will instead depend on your prior knowledge of horror narratives. I Trapped the Devil has been cleverly crafted so that each audience member will take something away form it that is very uniquely theirs as the plot unfolds.
This collision between two possibilities – that Steve has legitimately captured the devil or that an unbalanced Steve has kidnapped a human being – forces the audience to confront some difficult questions. Steve’s crucial speech about the nature of evil really puts it into perspective. Outside of the immediacy of Steve and his family’s situation, which of those two options would actually be worse? Is it scarier to think of a creature of pure evil that stalks the planet driving people to commit the worst atrocities known to humanity? Or is it worse to think that people just do those things anyway, unbidden, of their own free will?
I Trapped the Devil is a mesmerising puzzle box of a film, sure to leave these questions bouncing around in your head long after the credits have rolled.
Check out the official trailer below.