The Cycle (2009) (US title The Devil’s Ground) – Dir. Michael Bafaro

Indi-slice-sive slasher flick (sorry…)

Slasher movie killer with a shotgun? That’s just cheating!

The Horror Channel in the UK has really picked up lately. I’m getting into all the small horror movies with surpirsingly good production values. Some of them are even on actual film, not fuzzy digital vision. Sadly, the Cycle (Devils Ground in the States) isn’t one of those, but it started off pretty well.

Carrie (Daryl Hannah) is driving across North America, talking to a photo of a man who wants to go to ‘Bangor or Bust’. Clearly a Stephen King fan. She’s reached deep woodland and the road is dark. While she drives, a teenage girl runs crying and screaming through some woods. After a creepy run-in with a Yokel gas station attendant, Carrie continues on her way and almost hits the girl in the middle of the road. The girl, Amy Singer (Leah Gibson) is a little bloody and beaten up, clearly traumatised. Carrie tries to get her talking, and soon wishes she hadn’t. See, we’re about to get a very long flashback…punctuated only by many, many ‘and then what happened?’

Several bloody spoilers

If you couldn’t already piece it together, it’s very simple. College kids trying to get extra credit went bumbling around in the woods to find proof of an Indian burial ground to protect the wildlife. They fit pretty much every horror character you could need – the slutty one, the mean one, the nice but shy one, and the definitely-gonna-survive it to the last reel girl. The flashback angle really isn’t suited to a slasher movie, even if we already kinda know it’d be nice to pretend we didn’t, or hope that the makers try doing something unusual with the setup.

What we mostly get is a straightforward run and gun – and by the way, giving the killer a shotgun is cheating. Any mook can chase people with a shotgun. Guns are boring, mundane, and only the survivors should ever get hold of one – and then the bullets should run out! Note – this does NOT apply to zombie movies, but even they acknowledge you shouldn’t have too many bullets, or it stops being fun dangerous.

So the girl – Amy – describes her last two days and how her friends were brutally killed, although it does cut away from this. Then, as Carrie calls the police, she vanishes from the car, and Carrie learns she died two years ago. There are effective moments of spookiness, particularly where there’s something moving around in a barn, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Turning Amy into a ghostly hitchiker also feels like a crappy version of a Supernatural episode, because that show did it better both of the times it played with this idea. Supernatural also has far fewer plotholes. The ghost turnaround, the who is really what, the fact that everyone Carrie met seems to be a brother of another one, the stupid shootout at the end that was barely seen. It just misses the mark.

That’s why Cycle/The Devil’s Ground just didn’t work out. It had lots of strands, but no idea how to finish it. At the very end, just as Carrie finds her dead lover’s car poorly hidden behind a gas station, and looks for an apparently crucial map that Amy left behind, and just as the killer’s equally hulking twin brother tries to help her out, it all simply stops.

So maybe it’s angling for a sequel, or a raise in budget. The Cycle in the title is that Amy’s ghost leads potential victims to the crazy killer every year. But I’m really not convinced they link this properly to the Indian burial ground or the point of the crows that kept following everyone. With the forced mess of an ending, it comes down to a ghost, and…and some psychos, and some crows, and a toxic waste spill and…and look! Daryl Hannah screaming!

Never quite scary or gory enough, it was a good effort with some nice performances, but for a horror thriller really was a bit of a wet blanket.

And, frickin’ shotguns? Really?


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