Devoured starts with what could be thought of as a slow, thoughtful beginning. The first hour of the film is set to shots of eloquent table settings and food preparation, combined with random scares of ghastly images. Unfortunately, the film – written by Marc Landau and directed by Greg Olliver – crawls to its ending.
A decent storyline – an immigrant woman, Lourdes, working a night shift janitorial job at an upscale New York restaurant – makes for a good start. Throw in a sick child back home and her character immediately becomes empathetic as she battles a bitch boss and forceful men while struggling to send money back home for her son’s operation. Perhaps the restaurant is haunted and that’s what is causing the random dark figures to appear over Lourdes’s shoulder; either that, or she is losing her mind. But honestly, it takes a bit too long to get there.
Devoured is nicely shot, edited, and scored. The atmosphere is incredible to watch – reminding me of the recent Absentia. Characters are immediately loved or hated in a matter of moments – noting amazing acting on the part of leads Marta Milans (Lourdes) and Kara Jackson (Kristen). Yet, I can’t help but think Devoured is missing something. Perhaps a bit more of something to hint where we were headed with the “shocking ending” would benefit the film. Some sort of explanation as to why Lourdes is experiencing what she is experiencing at the Restaurant Francais.
The ending is great, but with the timing and pace, it just isn’t enough to make it worth a repeat watch. Marta Milans talent is almost underused – especially in a key end scene – where the entire movie could’ve been kicked up another notch. The immediate sympathy that can be felt for Lourdes through Milans’ acting is substantial enough that Devoured may work better as a short film. Even young Luis Harris as Lourdes’ son Oliver pulls at the heart strings within moments. A lot of the film is repeated scenes of Kristen the boss being as disrespectful as possible or the same ghostly spirits stalking Lourdes. With such strong thespians, these moments could be condensed and a powerful short would result.
The title and tagline – You will be Devoured – are a bit deceiving, though in the end can be twisted into a more artsy interpretation of what happens as a whole. If viewers can get passed the slow burn of Devoured, the payoff is great. It’s a deep reflection piece in many ways, even if it could use a tad more work.