A man wakes up in a supermarket, tied to a chair, with a shotgun pointing at his face. A voice comes over the tanoy and announces that if he tells the truth he will survive, but if he tells a lie he will be killed. The man is questioned about his relationship with his wife and he admits to cheating on her. His wife appears, also chained up. She manages to phone the police and when he thanks her and declares his love for her the shotgun blasts his head apart. Thus begins Shame the Devil, a kind of weird mash-up between Saw and Seven, but with a distinctly British feel to it.
Detective James Trent turns up (ably played by Phillips) and soon realises that the killer had rigged the victim up with a lie detector in order to trigger the gun. After their first suspect – a security guard – turns out to have a good alibi, and a doctor friend of his is killed by the same killer, Trent looks to an ex-girlfriend in America for answers, since she’s a specialist in profiling serial killers. It doesn’t take long before the two of them believe they’re up against some sort of religious nut – probably an ex-Catholic – who keeps saying to both his victims and would-be victims: ‘The truth will set you free – Shame the Devil’.
However, it later becomes apparent that some of the victims seem to be linked to the detective and suspicions are aroused when he nearly always seems to be the one to find the bodies. This makes James think that the reasons behind the murders might be more personal than he’d initially thought. A trip across to America, to join forces with his psychology friend, leads to more mayhem across the pond, and soon Detective Trent is under suspicion for some of the murders.
Shame the Devil is a somewhat mixed film. At times its relatively small budget shows through with a few sound issues, particularly when the killer is speaking, but the fact that it was partially shot in the States seems to indicate that there was some real money available to the filmmakers – pity they didn’t use it on decent mics! There are also some rather annoying ‘Avid farts’ (unnecessary post-production effects in between scenes), which are a personal bugbear of mine – if they’re not needed to tell the story then don’t use them.
But there’s plenty to like about the film as well. Much of the dialogue feels pretty real, and there are plenty of amusing comments about the Bible and some of its rather mixed messages. The acting is generally decent, although I can’t say I was particularly sold on the detective’s wing man, Stokes, who was rather wooden, but maybe he was ‘in character’! The story has a few good ideas, and a fairly satisfying twist ending, but spends too much time info-dumping during fairly slow, sitting around, talking scenes, many of which don’t really push the story forward. At times it all feels a bit like a made-for TV movie.
Shame on the Devil has a few nasty surprises up its ripped sleeves and it’s nice to see Doug – Pinhead – Bradley again, skulking away in the shadows. Overall, this is an okay film, it’s just a ‘shame’ there’s a bit too much deliberation and not enough ghoulish delivery to please fans of the films that have obviously influenced this one.
Shame the Devil has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Signature Entertainment. There were no special features on the disc. Boo!