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  Devil to Pay, The The Other Side Of The Mountain
Year: 2020
Director: Lane Skye, Ruckus Skye
Stars: Danielle Deadwyler, Catherine Dyer, Jason Warner Smith, Adam Boyer, Charles Black, Brad Carter, Tim Habeger, Ezra Haslam, Shelby Hofer, Parisa Johnston, Alison Mayer, Luce Rains
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lemon Cassidy (Danielle Deadwyler) lives in the Appalachian Mountains with her young son, and ostensibly her husband, though he spends days at a time away from their small cabin, running errands for the matriarch of this region, Tommy Runion (Catherine Dyer). This place is not forgiving to outsiders, nor is it welcoming, and there are definite rules that must be abided by for those who do live there, but these can be so arbitrary that the residents can break them without realising it - or be led into a transgression they had no idea was being planned for them. Thus when Lemon's husband stays away longer than expected, she knows something has gone badly awry when two men, representatives of Tommy, appear on her doorstep...

The Devil to Pay was not the first script by husband and wife team Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye to be produced for the big screen, but it was the first feature they had penned that was directed by themselves (they had dabbled in shorts previous to this). Their biggest hit to that date had been for the screenplay of horror-thriller Becky, which was a more humorous experience than this, albeit with a grim tone that was carried over here. There was not much to laugh at as they cultivated a sense of dread and menace, though not through the explicit violence of their former success, though there were certainly characters meeting some very sticky ends as Lemon tries to negotiate her way through various pitfalls and nasty pieces of work to prevail with her innocent little boy.

Although this could have been crafted as a basic revenge thriller, with much emphasis on the action aspect, that was not the path the Skyes wanted to go down, as was evident from their keenness on world-building. That sort of thing was often left for historical dramas or fantasy efforts, yet this was a contemporary style about a community that may have been more prevalently depicted in the nineteen-seventies when hicksploitation was all the rage, though those items were often well and truly on the side of the hicks and revelled in their antics as an authentic sort of Americana. There were moves towards that in The Devil to Pay, but the horror influence was tangible, and the desperation of Lemon's dire situation was not about to be downplayed: more The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Southern inhospitality than Smokey and the Bandit's good old boys.

Actually, in a curious way with its twisted take on a criminal society that everyone simply accepts because there does not appear to be any alternative, in mood this movie was quite close to the seventies cult movie Prime Cut, even to the extent of having the main villain sport a gender-bending moniker. But again, this was not really an action flick, though it was a thriller, if a dramatic one, throwing in offbeat plot points like a fire-worshipping cult who Lemon has to make a delivery to on the instructions of Tommy now it seems her husband is out of the picture. That delivery being a powerful acid the leader uses to burn off his genitals as a ritual suicide - really. It was that kind of story, full of unpalatable behaviour the characters such as our heroine had to (reluctantly) go along with because it was the way of things, and nobody had any right to question it, not even someone who was living with it, never mind an outside, official authority. This not-so-subtle attack on the mockery tradition made of a better life for all, where ancient rules bettered any kind of common sense or kindness, was the film's strongest suit, that and the performances, especially the haunted, resourceful Deadwyler in the lead. Music by Brad Carter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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