Chasing the Devil is a movie that took me two viewings to get through. In many ways it checks off all the boxes in terms of what I’m looking for with a found footage movie but unfortunately it is brought down by a largely unbelievable circumstances and well below-average performances.
I will star with positives. The movie overall captures the look and feel of the type of found footage film that is supposed to be about a paranormal research group investigating a mysterious circumstance, or in this case, a tragic event. I was on board with the lead character from the beginning. His desire to solve the mystery of what paranormal entity possessed and ultimately killed his sister was one I was keen to solve along with the characters. Pretty much all the way through to the movie I was rooting for him and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the paranormal crew he hires. There are some very shocking death/kill sequences in the movie that are well place but not overly graphic or expletive (most likely due to a limited budget). What we get to see during the more tense moments worked well enough and for the most part I was enjoying the movie. Also, bonus points for a very intense final sequence (which utilizes body cams for some excellent chase sequences involving multiple characters wearing the camera).
Unfortunately there are many things about this movie that held it back from being anything particularly special. First of all the acting isn’t very good from anybody. The worst performance is from the “psychic” named Thomas that is in the paranormal team… not once was be believable as a misty-eyed, wise looking mystic. The two exceptions to the poor acting were unfortunately smaller roles. One of them is sort of the goofball of the group, named Grant, who provides lots of well-timed comic relief… the other is a character introduced later in the movie named Hailey. While her role is brief there is a very effective sequence in the film with her.
As for the crux of the movie, the found footage styles… well I’m not sure it was done to any powerful effect. In fact, this movie may have been more effective as a more straight forward film. The reasons for hiring the paranormal team to film the investigation in addition to having the main character’s friend, Frank (who is apparently a documentarian), film the events wasn’t convincing. Clearly, the filmmakers wanted an excuse to have as many cameras as possible in this movie so more editing can be done. The cameras themselves are used to decent effect but overall it felt like a stretch that so many cameras were being used. This was a major negative for this movie.
Chasing the Devil is pretty realistic in how it’s footage is put together. It isn’t bogged down by a non-diegetic music at all. Also very few, if any, sound effects appeared to be overly manipulated (outside of what is necessary for providing an exciting narrative). A very basic distortion effect is prevalent throughout the movie that may or may not suggest the presence of a paranormal entity. It is used minimally and generally isn’t distracting (although it does dissipate some of the suspense when you know something is about to happen).
Overall I’m pretty in the middle of the road about this movie. The story was exciting enough and there are many suspenseful, intense sequences throughout the movie (especially near the end). Minimal use of special effects are mostly used positively and the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome either. Unfortunately, the movie is marred by terrible acting and it’s use of many different cameras isn’t very convincing and feels like the found footage aspect wasn’t originally the idea while the movie was being written. I can only recommend this movie to hardcore fans of the genre as it really is a lot of “been there, done that.”