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Categories: Movie Reviews

Benjamin Rider’s micro-budget anthology drama tells a different story for each deadly sin, with a variety of styles and thematic twists.

sevendevils1The seven deadly sins might be some of the most fascinating – and ubiquitous – symbols permeating our culture. To our modern world, they’ve been the subject for one of the all-time great mystery films (David Fincher’s Se7en), inspiration for a much-beloved manga and anime (Fullmetal Alchemist), and allegedly even a character guideline for the funniest cartoon this side of sea level (Spongebob Squarepants).

With his ambitious anthology film Seven Devils, director Benjamin Rider aims to add to this mythos. Filmed on a shoestring budget of only about £10,000, the 97-minute film provides seven 10-to-15-minute vignettes exploring each of the sins, with each short, as it were, serving as its own narrative, stylistic, and thematic standalone. 

vlcsnap-2015-12-11-19h48m37s34With a diverse cast, a few of whom play different roles in different sections, Seven Devils attempts to say something about each of the deadly sins without bashing us over the head with them. The Envy section, for instance, is sobering and sorrowful, the tale of a mysterious woman watching over a man she loves from what seems like beyond the grave. And the Lust section, which kicks off the film, does of course involve sex, but interconnects the subject with issues of innocence and power, following a meeting between an apparent male prostitute and a blind woman that turns sinister.

As it often is with anthologies, some of these stories are more gripping than others, and I personally found myself enjoying the later sections more than the earlier ones. This might be because Rider takes more aesthetically creative risks with vignettes like the surreal, dance sequence-heavy Pride and the practically silent Sloth than he does with the likes of Lust, which, while not without narrative surprises, are filmed quite straightforwardly, doing little to help the obvious lack of budget. 

vlcsnap-2015-12-11-19h48m55s198For sure, Seven Devils looks the part of a £10,000 film, and while Rider and crew should certainly be commended for coming up with a feature with such a small amount, it can’t be denied that, at times, the lack of resources shows. There’s little in the way of production design or creative lighting – except for beautiful scenery in the Pride section and an excellent abandoned warehouse-like location in the Sloth section – and the editing of the dialogue is noticeably uneven in a few places.

The performances and direction of such are also mixed, with a couple moments of mixed-up line delivery totally breaking the suspension of disbelief. However, there are some standouts, two of which are Cornelius Geaney Jr and Julia Papp, who both won awards in the Best Supporting categories at the Accolade Film Awards. I was also particularly entertained by an estate agent played by Alice Fofana, who totally lights up her two or three minutes of screentime.  

vlcsnap-2015-12-11-16h31m44s179Also worth noting is an original score by Lawrence Bywater, which overlays an 80s-inspired synthesized soundtrack over some of the film’s eerier sections. It does so similarly to my favorite score of 2015, Disasterpeace’s work on It Follows, and despite some slight inconsistencies is excellent given the cost of the film.

Fans of supernatural and spiritual thematic material and of the seven deadly sins in particular might get a lot out of Seven Devils, but the clear lack of production values will be too much for some to overcome. I’d definitely say the film needed a tighter edit – trimming a few minutes off of each section could have significantly cleaned up a few pacing issues – but for the budget level, it’s certainly something worth commending and a great stepping stone for its team to work off of. 

Seven Devils is coming to VOD this May. Find out more about Benjamin Rider’s work on his website

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

Posted on Feb 8, 2016

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