The Devil’s Rock begins at night, June 5th 1944, as the camera pans down from a moonlit sky, to the waters of the English Channel. Two men are paddling, in their kayak, to the shore of Forau Island, five miles Northeast of Guernsey. It’s the eve of D-Day, and Allied commandos Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joseph Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) have orders to destroy gun emplacements inside enemy occupied territory on the Channel Islands, attempting to draw Hitler’s attention away from Normandy. Strong currents have taken the men off course to a beach covered in anti-personnel mines and tank traps. On the island, they find a bunker, looking as much like a medieval castle, from which are heard the screams of men and the laughter of a woman. Inside the bunker is enough hell, literally, to power more than a few good horror films! Do the commandos dare enter? Of course!
“[Femme-Varou] would make Jack the Ripper look like a kindergarten tale.” ~ SS Colonel Klaus Meyer
What’s inside the bunker? It’s the Femme-Varou—a carnivorous, shapeshifting demon with a beautiful face and a killer body, familiar to everyone as a woman known and loved, dead or alive. With her façade, she confuses and deceives victims before desecrating their flesh and devouring them entirely. The aftermath of her meals are scenes of blood and guts to rival the best in horror! Men beware!
Oh, and what a masterful work of beauty and horror is the Femme-Varou! To men (and perhaps some women) her natural and supernatural forces are beyond resistance. Yes! Pulchritude achieves its true potential with Gina Varela, playing the part of the hellish temptress and doppelganger of Captain Grogan’s dead wife, Helena. Varela is an ultra-beautiful woman, oozing sensuality with every move, sultry and tempting, even as the literal man eater she portrays in The Devil’s Rock (henceforth referred to as TDR). As Femme-Varou, her eyes captivate men with Satan’s lust, with nothing more than a glance. Her demon form is gothic fire and brimstone, complete with red skin, horns, and hooves, alluring no less. Could the producers of TDR have found a more beautiful woman to make even hell a place of temptation? NO! Varela’s performance alone is enough to make TDR well worth multiple viewings…and the price of the DVD! I’ve watched the movie more than once already!
“You who have butchered so many, [and] you’re still novices in the game of death.” ~ Femme-Varou
Craig Hall (as Captain Ben Grogan) is most convincing as the battle-hardened Allied commando, brave enough to risk everything, even if death has the winning odds. Fitting the role, in appearance and attitude, audiences never feel he is without a Plan B or another chance. Yes! Hall plays a generic role with power, adding tremendously to the impact of TDR! Will Grogan’s war-savy wisdom transcend the weaknesses of emotion and loss? Hall’s performance explores the nuances of Grogan’s inner struggles and battles with temptation, making a multi-dimensional character to remember.
Without giving too much away, I must also mention the sole-surviving man inside the bunker. Matthew Sunderland portrays SS Colonel Klaus Meyer with period perfection, exuding arrogance and deception, with every word and expression. As the Nazi ideologue sent to verify the “Bad Books” of Guernsey, Meyer is committed to his duty for Fuhrer and Fatherland, at all cost. Conjuring and controlling the Femme-Varou is his way of helping Germany win the war, using supernatural forces as the true final solution–a Wunderwaffe (Wonder Weapon), unlike anything on Earth. Ancient demonic books, pentagrams, evil incantations, and protective pouches are the tools of the craft, never more appropriate here, even as cliches. Harnessing the evil unleashed is another story, with “War is hell” never so true, literally. It is exactly this point around which the movie revolves and reveals its plot, all at a pace that takes time developing stories and characters, rather than settling as a shock-value sellout. The back and forth struggles between Meyer and Grogan, as we study their characters, trying to predict their next moves, alongside the demon who threatens everyone, forms a complex and compelling triangle of twists and turns. With a demon as a character, as much as a monster, real history is infused with supernatural alternatives and close calls with the occult. With the devil allied with the Axis powers and directed by a Nazi like Meyer, who might have won the war?
Despite sensationalist claims and popular belief, there is no evidence that Hitler himself ever sought forces of the occult to fight the war or gain power for purposes otherwise. In recent computer analysis of lip movement in conversations (in video with no audio), Hitler actually made comments about how stupid it was to run around the world looking for such things. However, Heinrich Himmler (the second most powerful man in Third Reich Germany and Reichsführer-SS) is known for searching the world for religious relics of supernatural significance, along with researching archaeological and cultural evidence connecting Germans to the so-called Aryan, master race. Since Himmler would have been Meyer’s superior, everything in TDR is, in a big stretch of thinking, not beyond a possible assignment. Thank god no conjurings of demons were ever accomplished by the Nazis in reality, if they were ever attempted! The Nazis were demonic enough as humans!
Even a horror movie could be ruined by too many mistakes with the details of history. However, also impressive in TDR is the use of uniforms, documents, etc. that are period correct, just as the Nazis made them. Yes! The producers of TDR did their Third Reich homework. Most outstanding is the authentic-looking Nazi soldbuch (photo ID and paybook), shown in a closeup, complete with correct Nazi stamps and signatures. Wehrmacht uniforms and accoutrements are also correct. With such attention to details missing in many higher-budget movies, TDR stands out as one of the best I’ve seen.
Is there gore in TDR? Yes! There is a lot, but still, surprisingly, not as much as the director wanted! In watching the DVD’s behind-the-scenes feature (which I highly recommend), director Paul Campion says that, originally, he wanted the sets to be literally drenched in blood, with blood soaking the floors, walls, and ceilings (although there were no ceilings in the sets actually used). He said that only budgetary restraints kept him from actually doing that, as blood turned out to be “horrendously expensive.” Campion said that a full ten percent of the movie’s production-design budget was spent on blood alone, only creating twenty percent of the blood effect he wanted! Elsewhere, eviscerated bodies, skeletal carcasses, entrails, and carnage are copious and realistic, with blood gushing from victims screaming in agony! Even with all of this, Campion said he wanted more of the body parts and viscera as well. Even with the limits, however, TDR is a smorgasbord of horror where gorehounds will be well fed, if not stuffed! Yes! An empty stomach is highly recommended for this one!
“One does not summon demons without the means to defend oneself against them.” ~ SS Colonel Klaus Meyer
Along with the all-you-can-eat offerings are the usual questions. Will Captain Grogan be tempted by the evil shapeshifter, forgetting her hellish origins, trading his soul and country for carnal pleasures? Will the demon keep her promise to Grogan, if he accepts it, being his wife and lover in physical form, forevermore? Or, will Colonel Meyer harness the power of the Femme-Varou, wiping men from the Allied face of Europe, leaving only women to fight? With the help of Satan, will Hitler win the war, in an alternate reality, spawning a National Socialist sequel? Do we, in a Devil’s Rock 2, wish to see the beautiful Gina Varela again, reprising her role, eating the vulnerable and lustful among us? To the last question, risking the fate of humanity, I say, “Hell, yes!”
On a more intellectual note, TDR reminds us how much more evil the Nazis were than, perhaps, the satanic villain of the movie. In the end, we realize that the Nazi’s, as architects of the Holocaust, with their genocide, mass murdering, torture, and persecution, are the true monsters…even in a horror film about demons. The Nazi, who tricks men after a deal, attempting to fool, betray, and murder to the end, is, ironically, less trustworthy than the devil himself. Nazis are humans, like it or not. Mankind, thus, is the real Satan, shapeshifting, with more deception, with more inhumanity to man than any demon could ever deliver! Yes! Look no further, or no deeper! The road to hell is short and straight. We are the monsters, and within ourselves is hell. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you”…and so does the devil!
“Receive back into thine clutches this prodigal beast, who is condemned to return to thee.” ~ SS Colonel Klaus Meyer
In The Devil’s Rock, “war is a bitch,” literally, as much as it is hell…and, hell is a human as much as it is the devil. Along with the analogies comes an intelligent, well-written horror film, wrapped in a bloodbath of gore, carnage, and death. Like blood flowing from a severed limb, The Devil’s Rock reminds us that fresh meat is still out there, and the vein of creativity still bleeds. Bleed profusely, my friend…and enjoy the horror of humanity evermore! As humans, The Devil’s Rock may be our destiny!