THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO ISLINGTON (2023)
Bulldog Film Distribution. Digital 23rd October
When I see that a film is a British horror comedy, I have to say that it fills me with a sense of dread, as they are usually horribly unfunny, never scary and not worth your time. Sadly The Devil Went Down to Islington didn’t change that view!
Set during Halloween, for no other reason than that makes it more of a horror film I guess, it opens quite promisingly with a guy being attacked by two freakishly masked assailants and almost saved by Father Crowley (Michael Smiley, one of the numerous familiar faces in the cast), a priest wielding crosses with hidden knives… but he is too late and the Devil (Dominic Coleman) claims another soul.
Unfortunately that’s as good as it gets as the main story follows a young music teacher John Robertson (Spencer Brown – who co-wrote and directed the recent, very good, film T.I.M., currently on Amazon), who lives alone, is a bit of a saddo, a complete klutz and not particularly good at his job. Rushing to school as there is an Ofsted inspector due – which if you are a teacher you will know is more devilish than any satanic evil – he messes things up. He also learns from his fellow teacher friend Nick (James Lance, Ted Lasso) that Zoe (Sophie Colquhoun), who John hasn’t plucked up the courage to ask out, is leaving that day.
With his job on the line, he heads for the quiz night at the pub and ends up alone with the girl of his dreams – who, much to his delight, proposes they go out the next evening! However things don’t quite go to plan and our hapless educator ends up in a prison cell. When the next night Zoe wants nothing to do with him he drowns his sorrows with his buddy Nick and they end up unwittingly making a deal with the Prince of Darkness on a park bench!
Next day things seem to improve but when they later realises what they have done they have a race against time to try and extricate themselves from the pact… will they succeed as various obstacles are put in their way? Will you care?
Whilst the cast gamely give it their all, they are let down by a humourless script which wouldn’t have looked out of place starring Robin Askwith or the like in the 1970s. As it is, it raises the odd smile but otherwise fails to amuse and looks mostly bargain basement and uninspiring. The director, Daniel Wilson, is more at home helming TV shows like Doctors (137 episodes out over 4,000!!) and Eastenders. The film has an air of desperation about it – when are we ever going to learn that these small, cheap looking productions do the British film industry no favours. Islington deserves better!