- Ghosts of Empire Prairie (2013) Review

Title: The Device

Also known as:

Year: 2014

Genre: Horror / Sci-fi / Thriller

Language: English

Runtime: 90 min

Director: Jeremy Berg

Writer: Jeremy Berg & John Portanova


The death of a mother reunites two sisters after being away from each other for a very long time. They take a trip to a cabin where they have a unresolved past, along with the boyfriend of one of them, to spread the ashes of their mother on a lake. Here they find a strange black ball which seems to contain something strange. Something that is out to harm them, and whatever it is they are bringing it back home with them.

Our thoughts:
The previous movie by this team, "The Invoking" (a.k.a. "Sader Ridge") hasn't been getting the greatest reviews, but I personally didn't hate it. It was lacking something and ends rather on a flat note, but overall it did have something to offer. I knew I wanted to see more from this team, and here we are now a year-or-so later with "The Device", a much more complete movie in most ways, but with recognizable issues.

When the mother of Abby and Rebecca Powell passes away, they decide to reunite after a decade apart. Their past holds traumatic memories that are still unresolved, but they're put aside to come together and spread their mother's ashes over a lake. Once up there they discover a strange device - a black ball - and it's brought back with them home. The device is not made by a human or not even from Earth, but somewhere beyond. When the sisters and the boyfriend of one of them become part of whatever this black ball was made to do, they're soon visited by strange aliens. This realization brings back the unresolved issues of the family and things suddenly make sense - they're part of a horrible experiment.

The team have certainly surpassed their past feature in production values, this is a really well shot and slick production. Cinematography, lighting, sound and various technical aspects seem to have been worked on even harder than before. But unfortunately there's still some work to do in the writing, as the movie has a few moments where its dragging its feet and feels dull, many dialogue scenes overstayed their welcome, and like "The Invoking" the ending isn't as strong as its build up. It's an ending that makes sense, but it's not as grand as you were anticipating, making it appear flat. This is, of course, a big issue which ultimately makes it suffer but it is one of few in the movie.

What I did like in the movie was that it's a sci-fi with aliens, but it doesn't go as over-the-top as most. It does ride on a cliché of aliens experimenting on us, but the use of aliens was not a huge spectacle. Because of this it also has some atmosphere which I liked. And saying that, know that we do get to see them quite a bit. The make-up on the creature is quite good. Despite portraying the most typical style of aliens, it does it in a rather realistic way.

"The Device" mixes psychological thriller with sci-fi horror, and isn't looking to bring on a big spectacle. This is about the three people involved, more than the aliens that are visiting, and I liked that. It has the alien experiment/abduction angle, which is a common route to go, but it does alright with it. In the end it had potential of being a great sci-fi/alien flick but it doesn't quite reach its goal. It's not entirely clear why, but that the movie never truly evolves is definitely a problem. It has a great start before it starts to drag its feet, and the finale isn't enough to satisfy us after the build up. Overall though, "The Device" does work its theme in a positive manner by keeping it low key.

Positive things:
- More psychological than horror.
- Solid production overall, from the background crew to the actors.
- Good effects (except for some CGI).

Negative things:
- It's fine to be slow, but it's a problem when the movie doesn't have enough to justify its 90 minutes.
- Ends a bit flat and predictable.
- The little bit of CGI in the movie.

Gore: 0.5/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0/5

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