As Satan reprises in the underworld, watching over the tableau is humanity, he meditates on how we struggle for love, power and success.
But too often our ambitions get the better of us, as we will do anything to get what we want — and make deals with the devils in our own lives.
Writer-director Guy Soulsby’s visually stunning horror short leverages the power of cinematic craft to craft a baroque vision of a fallen world pulled between good and evil, creating a wide-ranging vision of the sinister, dark forces that beset humankind, no matter what corner of the globe.
The writing is essentially that of a monologue, though its language is rich with poetry and mordantly bemused observation. The Devil sees humans at their striving, craven worst, in their willingness to commit crimes and trample upon others to get what they want. Delivered with the gravelly baritone and deliciously depraved delivery of actor Shaun Dooley, the Devil looks down upon the pageantry of humanity and casts his own judgment upon people. And he’s not afraid of taking advantage of weakness and immorality to get what he wants.
This malefic worldview finds perfect expression in the phenomenal visuals of the short, which have a mythological reach in evoking demonic presences and spirits. Classic demons of Christianity, dark spirits of Africa, the hounds of hell in Greek mythology: the range indicates how humans have always struggled with the darker impulses represented by these symbols.
They’re brought to life with an exemplary attention to texture and detail in the images, which possess an almost overwhelming power in the seductive darkness. This level of depth and breadth in the film’s imagery and cinematography are rarely found in short films, and here they have an almost talismanic power to mesmerize and dazzle the eye. They captivate attention and draw us in, much like how the Devil himself may work upon us, hypnotizing us with grandiose visions and convincing us they can be real… if only we are ruthless enough to let nothing stand in our way.
Imaginative, nightmarish and arresting, “Devil Makes Work” is a feast for the eyes and ears, and it stands as a great accomplishment of film as a craft, an example of how images can be so richly powerful that they seem to dig deep into the collective imagination, evoke eternity and expand it beyond our own self-imposed parameters. Here, underneath the surrealism and disturbing content, their dark power and even beauty have a classicism that is both erudite, familiar and potent — because our dark impulses have long been with us, to deny, overcome and wrestle with throughout time.