• Devils Business, The



    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: October 14th, 2014.
    Director: Sean Hogan
    Cast: Billy Clarke, Jack Gordon, Jonathan Hansler, Harry Miller
    Year: 2011
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    The Movie:

    The Devils Business, directed by Sean Hogan, tells the strange tale of two hitmen, an older man named Pinner (Billy Clarke) and his younger protégé Cully (Jack Gordon), who are out on a job one night. Their mark is a man named Kist (Jonathan Hansler), wanted dead by their employer Bruno (Harry Miller) for reasons he’s not interested in disclosing. They break into Kist’s home and wait for him to return figuring once he does, they’ll pull the trigger and the job will be over.

    As they wait, Pinner keeps Cully, who is getting visibly anxious in this situation, by telling him a creepy story about one of his past jobs where he had to take out a gorgeous stripper. Before Pinner can get to the end of his story though, they hear something outside the house that causes them to head outside to check out the scene, figuring it might be Kist or somehow related to Kist. Of course it’s not what either of them expect, and things get decidedly strange from here on out, maybe having something to do with what looks like a Satanic alter that the two discover in Kist’s basement.

    What starts off as a very character driven crime story focusing on two hitmen shifts gears around the half way mark and drives straight on into horror movie territory but somehow manages to do so without drastically changing the atmosphere or the characters in inappropriate ways. By taking his time building things slowly and deliberately in the first half of the movie Hogan, who also wrote the movie, is able to mash genres fairly seamlessly and the end result is a startlingly original picture that is as entertaining as it is ominous and eerie.

    Clarke and Gordon are great as the two leads. The elder Clarke, as Pinner, has got a fairly bizarre sense of humor, the kind that makes him interesting to watch and while we know he’s a hired killer and don’t necessarily sympathize with him, he’s a great character. Gordon as Cully is convincing in his nervousness, his lack of experience causing him to put a great deal of trust in his mentor’s capabilities to pull off what starts to rapidly become far more than a routine hit. The interplay between the two men works well and they both pull of some great work here. The other players are also strong but going into a whole lot more detail there would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen the movie yet.

    Hogan directs the film with plenty of style. The vast majority of the film takes place at night and so it makes sense that it is as dark as it is, but he overcomes what could have wound up being a rather dull looking inkpot of a movie by demonstrating some excellent use of color and lighting. This accentuates the creeping horror in the last half of the movie but so too does it help to accentuate some of the character quirks that make all of this as interesting as it is. At seventy-two minutes the film moves quickly and it is a super slick looking picture with excellent use of sound to compliment the visuals and keep them intriguing. This is definitely different but it works and it works very well.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Devil’s Business looks excellent on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. This is a VERY dark movie, heavy on deep blacks but the transfer handles it well, never breaking down into macroblocking or compression artifacts nightmares and providing about as much shadow detail as it would seem the filmmakers wanted. As this was shot on high end digital video there are obviously no issues with print damage while detail, even in those many darker scenes, is pretty impressive throughout. The use of frequent primary lighting effects gives the movie some interesting splashes of color throughout and this hues are reproduced very nicely too. There’s no goofy noise reduction of filtering issues to complain about and all in all, the image here scores top marks.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on the disc is also quite good. Levels are nicely balanced and there’s a lot of depth to appreciate here, the kind that makes the sound mix plenty effective and at times very atmospheric as well. Dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from director Sean Hogan who is joined by the movie’s producer, Jennifer Handorf. This is a well-paced and interesting discussion that covers Hogan’s beginnings in the film industry through to how this project came about and how the two become involved in it. They also talk up the effectiveness of the performances and the skills of their cast as well as offer up some interesting stories about why certain scenes and shots were handled the way that they are. They also explore some of the themes that the movie deals with as well as how some of the black humor in the feature works its way through the story.

    Additionally, we get a few interviews, the first of which is with Hogan and runs twenty-six minutes. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary track but it’s interesting to watch regardless. Handorf is interviewed here as well, and again, there is some overlap but enough new information that if you enjoyed the feature you’ll want to sit through it. More interesting is the interview with actor Billy Clarke in which he shares some information on how he came on board to work on the movie, his early sports career and what it was like scheming alongside his collaborators to get the production just right. Additionally, composer Justin Greaves shows up here to talk about his work on the movie’s score and to offer some insight into his creative process. These last two interviews flesh out the story behind the film in interesting ways, as does the nine minute behind the scenes featurette that shows what it was like on set during the making of the production.

    Rounding out the extras are a trio of music videos from Crippled Black Phoenix and Se Delan, a quick one minute collection of outtakes, the Mondo Macabro trailer reel, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, the Blu-ray case also contains a DVD version of the movie with identical extra features.

    The Final Word:

    The Devils Business might start off a little on the slow side but even in the early scenes, we know that Hogan and company are up to something interesting. By the time the movie is over it has mixed arthouse, horror and crime drama in such seamless ways that you can’t help but be taken in by it all. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray release is a strong one, offering up a large selection of genuinely interesting extras alongside a very fine audio and video representation of the feature.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!