Review: I TRAPPED THE DEVIL Uses Your Paranoia To Creep Under Your Skin

i trapped the devil room
Josh Lobo’s I Trapped The Devil. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Midnight Release.

I Trapped the Devil is a new horror-thriller film written and directed by Josh Lobo. The movie follows a man who traps someone whom he believes to be the Devil in his basement during a fit of paranoia, only for things to get complicated when his brother and sister-in-law arrive to celebrate Christmas.

The concept behind this story is pretty ingenious. Although the core plot is simple, it opens up the possibility for an interesting psychological horror that builds off of the paranoia of the characters. One of the best things about the film is that it allows you to keep guessing about the mystery right up until the end. A more ambiguous ending may have been better, but the direct way in which the movie concludes is still effective.

The main message of the film involves paranoia. The ending nearly defeats the entire purpose of the movie, but the moral remains clear: paranoia is extremely dangerous. Thankfully, the film does not become overly preachy with this message, though it isn’t particularly subtle either. It instead falls in this happy middle ground where it is obvious enough for general audiences to pick up on it but not too obvious to the point of annoying diehard horror fans.

Because of the exaggerated presence of paranoia, it is hard not to get wrapped up in the story and suspense. All of the conflict is centered around the single main plot, so there isn’t anything that would draw your attention away from the rising tensions in the room. Additionally, the confined setting helps create a feeling of entrapment within the situation that further creates tension.

i trapped the devil steve
Scott Poythress as “Steve” in Josh Lobo’s I Trapped The Devil. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Midnight Release.

One of the weaker areas in the film is its character development. For starters, none of the characters has a substantial arc. Had the characters experienced any real growth over the course of the movie, there would have been even more reason to get invested in the story. The character that has the closest thing to the arc is the main character’s sister-in-law. The main character is portrayed as pretty crazy and his brother is just a jerk. At least the sister-in-law is somewhat likable.

That being said, despite the fact that the characters aren’t the most well-written, the actors did a good job of infusing some life into their roles. Scott Poythress does an excellent job in his leading role, really selling the craziness of the character. He was a ton of fun to watch, so maybe he will become a horror film regular. AJ Bowen also does a solid job in his supporting role, but Poythress often steals the show.

The movie was also very impressive on a technical level. The production design is extremely good, as the film had to take advantage of a confined setting. The choice by the filmmakers to set the movie at Christmas gives it a good juxtaposition (although it is Christmas by setting only — it shouldn’t really be considered a Christmas movie). Another thing that stands out is the use of the old-school television, which is pretty creepy.

Overall, I Trapped the Devil was a solid thriller film. It would have been more effective had the characters been more interesting, but nonetheless, it is suspenseful, enjoyable, and mostly well-shot.

I Trapped the Devil is in theaters and on VOD beginning April 26.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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