The Shortround: Kill Devil Hill (Review)
Let's get the plot out of the way first. See below.
On a day trip with his family to Kill Devil Hill, Jesse Reed (Taylor Graham) chases after his son Joey (Aiden Miranda) who has mischievously run off into the woods nearby. Joey discovers the remnants of some demonic pagan ritual. The skull of a bull head, made entirely out of gold, hangs from a large oak tree. Joey touches the inverted pentagram on the skull only to find that it has been drawn in blood. Frightened, Joey slowly backs away.
Suddenly, the skull begins to 'come to life' inside an epic orb of light. Joey's eyes glow as it appears that something supernatural is trying to enter his body. He faints and the golden skull vanishes into thin air. Moments later, Jesse finds his son laying on the ground. He picks him up and carries him out of the woods. Late that night, Jesse wakes to use the bathroom. While washing his hands, he looks in the mirror and sees that his eyes are glowing with the same supernatural force that has invaded his son just hours before...
the jaded viewer says: Kill Devil Hill is a slick reenactment of past crime in small town America. Many of these horrific crimes never get told but they should and Kill Devil Hill is a step in the right direction to tell the tale.
As I said before, it's a slow burn for a short but the final 4-6 minutes is a helluva a jolt. The set up is clearly intentional with a relaxed atmosphere of sleepy time as we meet our Americana family. But it seems not all is what it seems and through a flashback we see how the morning's events are going lead to a long night.
The Satanic overtones are clearly visible. Devil stars and makeshift sacrifice altar are in the woods Joey visits. We see something is haunting both father and son and when we get to the end, all hell is unleashed.
The performances are solid with some nice funny ha ha's all around. The final minutes are brutally vicious in their rawness. I thought they'd go all PG-13 but nothing is quite impactful than seeing a crime photo slaughter of innocents.
My only gripes would be the special effects. There are quick shots of a bullhead acting a little supernaturally floaty as well as a quick scare bullhead attack. Somehow I felt this wasn't necessary. It bordered on cheesy and little over the top. Having it grounded in some sort of "what we don't see is a little more scarier" would have made this film perfect.
But that doesn't diminish a real world crime translated into a fictional what if scenario. The short clearly screams "Why? Why? Why?!" but all is left unanswered. Kill Devil Hill is a fantastic slice of pseudo True Crime cinema. Here's hoping it can be extended to a full length film one day.