(We’ve unwrapped a few spoilers) Most of the movies we get around the holidays are full of bright lights, tinsel, and someone learning the “true meaning” of Christmas. How many times can we sit through another movie about someone finding love on Christmas? Some of us like our holiday movies a little darker and a little scarier than another viewing of Love, Actually. I Trapped the Devil doesn’t fail to deliver on either the dark or the scarier.
Set during the Christmas holiday, two brothers who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years are reunited when Matt and his wife, Karen, drop in on his brother Steve unannounced for the holiday. Very few people like what Jerry Seinfeld once called the “pop in.” Steve likes it even less than the average person because he’s hiding something in his basement.
Although the mystery is given away in the title as to what or who Steve is hiding in the basement the ultimate answer is slowly revealed over the course of the movie. The events in the movie’s second act are meant to make the audience question whether Stan is crazy or if he’s actually trapped the devil in the basement. The movie is successful, to a certain point, sowing the seeds of doubt in the viewer’s mind.
Steve’s wife and child were killed in a car crash on Christmas Day. Matt and Steve hadn’t seen each other since their deaths. Matt alludes to the problems Steve had after their deaths which lead to the two not seeing each other for a number of years. At one point, Steve sees the man who was responsible for his family’s death. Steve also receives phone calls with no one on the other end of the line. It’s not made clear enough, but we can assume Steve is the only who hears the phone ring. It’s enough to make anyone think Steve may be a little unstable.
However, the point of I Trapped the Devil is not to confuse or pull surprise twists on the audience. The point is to scare and creep out its audience. To that end cinematographer Bryce Holden has kept the movie dark except at key points in the movie. The movie is bathed in a glowing red light,reminiscent of what one may see in a photographer’s dark room, when Matt, Steve, or Karen are in the basement. Other scenes are lighted simply by Christmas lights. The glow from lights normally used to convey seasons greetings clash with the overall eerie vibe of the movie. The effect is made even more disturbing when the voice behind the door becomes audible.
The bodiless voice behind the door is the one element of the movie that can’t be explained away. Everyone hears the voice. Steve has kidnapped someone and locked them up in his basement. When Matt and Karen first hear the voice they assume it’s someone Steve has kidnapped and locked up. Matt stays convinced the person on the other side of the door is an innocent person. Karen learns the truth which sets up a confrontation between all three of them.
Learning the truth of who’s behind the door also makes us question Steve’s behavior since Matt and Karen’s arrival to the house. If the devil is trapped he, or it, has been manipulating everything and everyone. Steve even says to Matt that he was told someone who come to “stop him.” The phone calls? Perhaps it’s the devil creating paranoia in Steve and distrust in Matt.
The ironic thing is Steve believed by trapping the devil he could stop bad things from happening in the world. He’s sane enough to know he can’t stop all the evil, but he’ll be able to stop some of the bad things happening in the world. Steve shows Matt flyers of missing kids who reappeared only after he trapped the devil as proof his plan could work. The third act of the film proves him wrong as all sorts of bad things happen to Matt, Karen, Steve, and two police officers doing their job during the course of the night.
I Trapped the Devil is an unsettling movie. At times it has the throwback horror feel of movies like House of the Devil (2009) and We Are Still Here (2015). However, I Trapped the Devil is a more superior movie than either one of the previously mentioned movies. The unsettling feeling the movie develops carries over to and through the end credits. The ending may create more questions than the movie answered or wanted to answer, but you’ll still be too creeped out to question what actually walks through the basement door at the end of the movie.
Watch with a nice warm cup of hot cocoa or your favorite eggnog, but whatever you do don’t let I Trapped the Devil pass you by.