Considering its title you could be forgiven for thinking that Devoured, the horror film from director Greg Oliver and starring Spanish actress Marta Milans, would be a shocking and twisted original. Well it might be bizarre, but ultimately this strange outing, which was an official selection at the Grimmfest film festival in 2012, is disappointing due to its soullessness and underlying sense of confusion.
Lourdes (Milans) is a Spanish woman who works as a kitchen assistant in a New York restaurant. The little money she earns she sends home to her mother and ill son, whom she hopes will eventually be able to join her in America. Overcome by the hopelessness of her work situation and her unpleasant boss – and haunted by the frequent manifestations of a strange and unexplained apparition – Lourdes finds her increasingly fragile mental state pushed to breaking point with devastating results.
The filmmakers behind Devoured have tried to sell it as a film which harkens back to grimy 1970’s New York based psychological shockers like Taxi Driver (1976) and Driller Killer (1979), and as such you can see what they were aiming for. The film’s evocation of the Big Apple, shot mainly in a grey and muted palette, lends the city a feeling of isolation and disjointedness which is reflected in the loneliness of Lourdes’ character. Indeed, apart from the vision of the city, Milans’ intense depiction of Lourdes’ unhinged persona is about the only thing in the film’s favour.
The real problem with the film is a sense of confusion established shortly after the film starts, and which continues for its hour and a half duration. Without giving away what little plot and resulting suspense there is, following its introduction the film is told in one long flashback, an aspect which takes you several minutes to realise. Though the fact that several of the main characters who appear throughout the film could be the perpetrator of the ensuing crimes is clever, the way this leads the viewer down various blind alleys is in the end more frustrating than rewarding. Add to this a grotesque spectre-like man whose intermittent appearances are never really explained, and the resulting film leaves the viewer with more of a sense of frustration than disquiet.
Ultimately, though Devoured could have had the potential for the basis of a disturbing episode of CSI: NY, it fails to deliver the meat required for an extended exercise in psychological horror.