When I first heard about Devil's Den, about a bar full of strippers who turn into monsters and the small band of survivors who battle for survival, I thought, "Wait up - I've seen that flick. And it was kinda kickass. So what's all this, then?"
A steaming pile of celluloid, as it turns out. Honestly, I don't ask for much from a movie. A movie has to REALLY suck for me not to like it - I've always been that way - and basically I just ask for something to entertain me for an hour and a half or so that's more fun than my boring existence. This utter waste of film (and a few otherwise talented individuals) in no way achieves that. I mean, my God, what a travesty. We're talking crime against humanity here, people.
So, anyway, the "plot" revolves around Quinn (Devon Sawa) and his buddy Nick (Steven Schub) returning from Mexico with a suitcase full of Spanish Fly - which I was not aware even existed anymore - to sell for a great deal of cash. They stop at The Devil's Den, a seedy strip club in the middle of nowhere to try out their purchase on a few of the ladies therein. Inside are the usual motley crew of barflies and strippers, as well as an older gentleman in Coke-bottle glasses, Leonard (Ken Foree, still looking like he could whip some rightoeous ass) and a mysterious woman in black, Caitlin (Kelly Hu, hot as always).
About twenty minutes in, this flick's idea of "all hell breaking loose" occurs. Nick is quickly dispatched, as are all the other patrons except a cutie-pie waitress named Candy (Karen Maxwell), on her first night on the job (of course). A battle ensues, with Caitlin whipping out two silenced Berettas which she promptly unloads into the demon strippers. Quinn more or less freaks out and swings chairs when he's not pissing himself. Leonard - conveniently - is armed as well with a sawed off shotgun, and blows some chicks all over the place with some terribly unconvincing wire work before he runs out of ammo. That's when he produces a samurai sword.
Devil's Den is dully incompetent at best and utter and total shit at worst. Director Jeff Burr was also responsible for Leatherface -the third Texas Chainsaw - and while I didn't really care for that, I did see it a long time ago, and only once. I am (somewhat) tempted to watch it again to see if Burr ever had anything slightly resembling talent behind the camera. I really don't like kicking a guy when he's down, but his direction here is abysmal; that may be too kind, actually. He seems to have only a rudimentary idea of how to shoot a scene, which is annoying even when it's just two people talking, and the kiss of death for a sequence where anything that's even remotely of interest is occuring, like an action sequence or a kill scene. The timing on the jokes or moments of humor are pissed away by his inability to edit them correctly. Basically, everything the man does here is a failure. Seriously. The directing here is ABYSMAL. I cannot be any clearer about this.
The script, vomited out by stuntman-turned-scribe Mitch Gould, is nonsensical and absurd in equal measure. I would say that he should stick to his day job, but since he was the stunt coordinator on this flick - and have thusly seen his work in that department - I would suggest that perhaps he take up some other form of employment, like gardening or insurance sales. Although, to be fair, the script is only about 97% shit. There are about ten funny lines in there, even if it may only be the actors delivering them actually making them so.
That - the acting - is a particular disappointment. Sawa, Hu, and Foree are not bereft of skills; I know this because I have seen them do decent-to-inspired work elsewhere. Here, they have been hung out to dry, and while Foree and Sawa in particular try their damndest, they learn that you cannot get blood from a stone. I really dug Final Destination and I loved Idle Hands, so I was hoping to see a great smart ass turn from Sawa here. His character Quinn (with an inexplicable fear of squirrels) is a self described "fuckup" and I will not disagree. Sawa DID make me laugh out loud a couple of times, but that was it; the flick just couldn't give him hardly anything to work with, but he does what he can. And Foree is a badass to this day, as he was in the original Dawn of the Dead - and he was mighty cool in The Devil's Rejects as well - but here, playing a monster hunter, he seems mostly tired, and that's a damn shame. A bit sad for a man who was so awesomely eaten alive by insects in Stuart Gordon's From Beyond. Kelly Hu has been described by some as a low-rent Lucy Liu, but I find that a bit unfair; she's always appealing and it's enjoyable to see her kick ass.
Here, however, it only works sporadically - Caitlin is an assassin on a mission of her own (which would explain the silenced pistols) who gets pulled into this mess. Hu does what she can and is physically believable but again, the movie just lets her down. The script even gives her a moment of soul-searching where she questions having killed people for years - I swear, she even says "My whole life's been a LIE!" - and you can't help but roll your eyes. As for Karen Maxwell's turn as Candy the waitress? She more or less lets her cleavage play her part for her, which should be more entertaining than it actually is; she does have some fairly impressive cleavage (special thanks to the movie itself for pointing that out to us).
So. What else? The scene where our heroes take refuge from the demons in a back room, and I swear it seems like they're going to LITERALLY go to sleep. But is it nap time? No. It's story time. Sawa (apparently a fan of samurai flicks) and Foree (with his sword) discuss how Zatoichi, the famed blind swordsman, would take out all these demon strippers. And then the movie is kind enough to dramatize it for us. Believe it, folks. And I love watching a blind dude with a sword walking all up and down people's asses as much as the next guy, but here I was literally like, "What the FUCK?!?"
The makeup effects range from decent to huh? Some of it looks they just smeared lasagna across their faces, let it dry, and started filming. The gore - and there's not nearly enough of it - is, like everything else, poorly done and uninspired. There was one well done death, but we've all seen it a million times in a million better flicks, so whatever. The demon strippers (who, we are informed, are "ghouls") act like a cross between vampires and flesh-eaters, yet clean themselves like cats - I'm dead serious - and howl like wolves. I swear I'm not making any of this up.
There are some chuckles during the final showdown but by then you won't give a rat's ass. If you don't figure out the flick's "big twist" before we're even halfway through the running time, I guarantee you've never seen more than ten movies in your life. This is simply a colossal waste of time, money, and (in the case of the three leads) talent.
The DVD has a pointless and equally amateurish featurette, "Belly of the Beast" (about 14 minutes), a blooper reel, a photo gallery, and a commentary by writer/stunt coordinator Mitch Gould, producer John Duffy, and composer Jon Lee. I apologize for not listening to it, but there's only so much I can stand. There's also, should you choose to further punish yourself, a DVD-ROM feature that will allow you to view (can't bring myself to say "read") the script.
A buddy whose advice I (used to) listen to said this wasn't half bad, and I read some decent things about it, saying that while it wasn't scary at all, it was funny and pretty entertaining. Now if I could have seen the movie they were talking about, I'd die a happy man. This one sucked. Part of me DOES feel bad for being so hard on this, but I just gotta call it like I see it. And I'm a guy who thought the From Dusk Till Dawn - just had to mention that FAR superior film that this rips off so blatantly - sequels weren't that bad. Lemme put it this way: a couple months ago my girlfriend made me watch The Lake House, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves with her. I'd sooner watch that again (and would be happy about it) rather than suffer through this gorilla feces one more time.