Jared Cohn, director of Hold Your Breath, Halloween Pussy Trap Kill Kill, Little Dead Rotting Hood, and the backwoods slasher The Horde simply must keep making movies, because even if I like some less than others, he never does the same thing twice. For me, Devil’s Domain is his best film yet.
It manages to complexly explore queer issues, shines a light on school bullying and the struggles of being a modern teen, delivers wickedly gory slasher elements, and throws in an almost campy she-devil plot. To top it off, the soundtrack rules, with a mix of 80s artists (Gary Numan, Missing Persons, Taco), modern alternative bands (Magic Wands, The Anix, Vowws), and iconic hip hop artists (DMX, Onyx).
The character development in the first part of the film packs a punch, giving such a quick glimpse of the shit kids have to contend with that it reminds me of how glad I am that I’m never going to bring a child into this shitty world. Our main girl is a lonely lesbian with an eating disorder, no friends, a bitch of a mother, and a fricking awesome stepdad played by Michael Madsen.
In what amounts to essentially one day of her life, she is tormented in school, betrayed by a friend, and cyberbullied in ways that are ripped right out of the headlines.
And while it might be easy to say that the bullies are total caricatures as they relish the thought that their cruel assaults will push her to suicide, again…this shit is right out of the headlines.
The good news? It’s the devil to the rescue! She lures our main girl in at her darkest moment…over the Internet…and suggests they meet. More terrifying headline reality to remind me why I would never want a kid.
I’m not saying I’d ever sell my soul to the devil, but this Beelzebub bitch is fucking awesome. She’s a hot lesbian with the attitude of a diva porn star. And she can turn into her demonic form at any time. Most importantly, she starts taking down those fucking bullies in super gruesome ways…in between lesbian orgies with the main girl.
This ridiculously entertaining yet meaningful flick could also be read in various ways from a queer perspective. Initially, you sympathize with the lesbian character because everyone is so awful to her. Yet the devil comes along, and she’s a lesbian…who chooses a lesbian as the perfect candidate to take part in her evil game of rape, torture, and mutilation.
So is this suggesting that gay=evil? The devil makes it clear she can take on any form, so it seems pretty obvious to me that she showed up as a hot lesbian because she knew that was the way to seduce a fragile, vulnerable lesbian who has clearly been victimized by everyone. Of course, that means she’s once again a victim…of the devil this time. And boy is she ever by the end of the film, when the devil demonstrates serious gender fluidity with her.
And speaking of gender, the film also features a character all the students in the school call a “she-male.” The character wonderfully challenges the audience, because it is never made clear to us whether he is indeed transgender. Is he perhaps just a gay boy nicknamed based on his attraction to other males? Probably not, because when he goes to enter the male restroom, a male bully stops him and says he needs to use the female bathroom.
A teacher actually stops the bullying and makes it clear that he can use whichever restroom he feels more comfortable entering, which would suggest that he is transgender—and being treated with a lot more respect by the administration than could be said for kids in schools across the country. In fact, most of the adults in the film are noticeably sympathetic and supportive of the victims of bullying in the film. That’s one you won’t see ripped out of the headlines.
It’s also notable that the main girl and the trans kid don’t forge a friendship or seek comfort from each other, instead suffering in their own loneliness.
The devil makes another questionable queer move—she summons the trans kid as the negative element in her takedown of one of the bullies. He appears on command like he’s virtually one of her little minions (like the lesbians at her orgies). But is it really him or is the devil simply working her magic? Either way, it sure comes across as if several LGBTQ identities are responsible for a bunch of breeder deaths before all is said and done.
However, the irony of it all is that the devil’s price for protecting the lesbian ends up being what amounts to the ultimate curse of heteronormativity…
So are the queers the bad guys or getting their just revenge? There are plenty of ways to interpret the queer inclusion in Devil’s Domain, but even if you don’t want to get all deep about that aspect of the film, it’s still a hell of a fun time.