Director: Pat Higgins
Screenplay: Pat Higgins
Starring: Victoria Hopkins, Cy Henty, Jess-Luisa Flynn, Scott Thomas, Debbie Atwell, Alan Ronald
Running Time: 91 mins
BBFC Classification: TBC
The Devil’s Music starts with a piece-to-camera by the director of the so called documentary film: ‘The Devil’s Music’. During his introduction, director Pat Higgins talks about the origin of the film and this being a re-release with additional rare footage; incendiary footage that they finally obtained the rights to show. The documentary in question follows the trials and tribulations of the band ‘Erika Spawn’, fronted by the notorious shock-rocker of the same name.
We are quickly introduced to the main ‘players’ in this strange story as they tour with their rather hip manager, Eddie Meecham, in a fairly plush mini-bus. They soon encounter a female groupie who’s obsessed with Erika and who Erika quickly grows to like; so much so she insists that the girl, Stephanie Regan, accompanies them on their tour.
Not all is happy families as there seems to be friction between moody bassist Adele Black and Erika, and the former quickly grows to hate Stephanie as she becomes the lead vocalist’s favourite. The tour takes in a music awards ceremony (that the band doesn’t win anything at) and culminates in a shocking act of violence perpetrated against one of the band members live on stage, which the audience lap up thinking it’s part of the Erika Spawn stage show!
Things take an even stranger turn for the worst when it turns out that said perpetrator of violence against the band turns out to have had previous ties with a rival pop star, Robin Harris, who may or may not be the Anti-Christ or something like that!
The Devil’s Music is a rather uneven film. On the one hand it feels like it’s trying to be a found-footage sort of film and on the other hand a mockumentary sending up pretentious rock bands in general. It doesn’t work particularly well at either approach, although there is some humour throughout. While having a kind of loose narrative structure sort of fits in with the mock documentary approach it can grow tiresome quite quickly and, when it’s coupled with fairly amateur acting, it can make sitting through a feature-length film of this nature quite a chore.
However, at its core, The Devil’s Music does have some interesting ideas and I did appreciate what director Pat Higgins was trying to accomplish. And Higgins makes some good points about how the media works and how responsibility for heinous crimes is often diverted away from the true culprits of the crime and onto scapegoats such as extreme bands and films by the press, which is obviously grossly unfair. Sadly Higgins often undermines his film’s good points by some pretty poor scene staging, whereby live sets feature just the band with no audience shots (probably due to a lack of budget) and generally pretty poor sound quality, apart from the gigs and a couple of interviews, which seem to be so much louder than the rest of the film, where mumbling seems to be de rigueur.
As with many low-budget films it’s the sound quality that sinks them and The Devil’s Music is a prime example of this. Audiences will put up with some pretty shitty visuals as long as the audio is good and sadly the audio here is a very mixed bag. I appreciate that the filmmakers might have felt that the mix in quality of audio might reflect the nature of being on the road with a band and having different camera operators, but if people can’t hear what’s being said then they quickly start to lose interest, as did I.
I know I keep ranting on about this in my reviews, but it’s so important to get your audio-mix right, even when shooting ultra-low budget films, otherwise there’s no point in trying to distribute them… Rant over – sorry!
And while on the subject of sound, the music featured in The Devil’s Music doesn’t really gel with the idea that ‘Erika Spawn’ is a shock rocker – I’ve seen half-drunk pub bands - populated by spotty 17 year olds - that are far more shocking than this lot! Plus it’s always grating to see when the band members are clearly not playing their instruments for real and the singing has probably been made serviceable by auto-tune! On the other side of the coin the incidental music that can be heard throughout the film actually worked quite well.
Overall I thought The Devil’s Music was pretty disappointing, but I did quite like the main narrative running throughout and felt that it could have been much better if more care had been taken with the sound mix and in choosing the main actors.
Check out Pat Higgins’ story, ‘Vice Day’, in the portmanteau film Bordello Death Tales (2009), if you want to see some of Pat’s more accomplished work.
The Devil’s Music has fairly recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Cine Du Monde. The special features on the disc include:
Lost Tales of Erika Spawn:
Part 1: A two minute piece where Pat Higgins basically repeats most of what he said in the film’s intro.
Part 2 – A three minute piece about staging the production stuff.
Part 3 – A two minute piece about Adele, the bassist; where Pat says that she was a right cow to work with!
Part 4 – A three minute piece about the band’s manager.
A red band trailer shot back in October 2009
Deleted/extended scenes (15 minutes worth), which include lots more footage on the tour bus; mostly dull).
Audio commentary with writer/director Pat Higgins – will have to check this out one day.
The extras did raise two questions in my mind – what happened to the other female guitarist we saw on stage or did I imagine her? And was most of the dialogue improvised – it certainly felt like it was…?
A collection of Cine Du Monde trailers for films such as Jesus Vs. the Messiah (how does that work?); Easter Bunny, Kill, Kill; Killer Killer; Suicide Club; Wound; The Ghouls; Unspeakable.