The Devil's Instrument
Aug 1, 2022
Adam B. Sergent
Adam B. Sergent
Austin Fletcher, Cory Spalding, Jordan Bryant, Ally Ledford
Having done a deal with the devil, famous novelist Markus Cole (Austin Fletcher) attempts to undo his pact with Daemon (Cory Spalding) in an intense elongated negotiation sequence whereby the pair try to out manoeuvre each other. With the lives of his family (and his own) on the line, the stakes are high, especially once a series of interspersed guests arrive to vamp up the tension.
The absolute joy of watching indie films can be seeing a writer/director (in this case Adam B. Sergent) take full ownership of their piece and craft it in a way that is largely aware of its limitations and yet boldly impressive. With The Devil’s Instrument, Sergent eschews a plethora of “accepted” filmmaking practices in favour of a more stripped-down affair that is more akin to a theatre piece. The story takes place in one darkened location, with shadows everywhere to keep the audience completely focused on the handful of characters on screen - primarily Markus and Daemon. Even on a minimal budget, some filmmakers may have been tempted to shoot additional scenes to give context and variety for the viewer, yet Sergent’s brave approach pays dividends in creating a memorable and intoxicating environment.
Fletcher is solid in the central protagonist’s role but it is Spalding who shines as the slick merchant of evil, constantly ribbing Markus and poetically playing with his food on screen. Ally Ledford arrives as a character we won’t name or spoil, but she absolutely steals the show in terms of performance - so much so her absence from the majority of the film seems like a crying shame. At times, many of the performances cross the line into melodrama and the theatrical nature of The Devil’s Instrument starts to feel quite awkward to watch - this is particularly notable in the closing section of the film which, again, I won’t spoil. The dialogue can also feel as wooden as a church pew in a few places.
The indie film is dealing with heavy themes of good, bad, righteousness and redemption but it never forgets to be engaging. The filmmakers know the strength of the piece is in the predicament of Markus, who wants to free himself of eternal damnation at any cost, which allows the film to drench itself in peril and keep the audience continually glued throughout - regardless of the budgetary shortcomings. Whereas a film like Bedazzled - the one with Brendan Fraser - attempted to make a deal with the devil sexy and funny, The Devil’s Instrument takes a more serious approach (even if it elicits a few laughs unintentionally) and is all the same as compelling.
It’s a showcasing of brave creativity and bold indie filmmaking that should be appreciated and the filmmakers can rest in the knowledge that their efforts are largely effective in creating something darkly engaging and devilishly addictive.
Watch the official trailer here.