Combustible Celluloid Review - Devil's Workshop (2022), Chris von Hoffmann, Chris von Hoffmann, Radha Mitchell, Timothy Granaderos, Emile Hirsch, Sarah Coffey, Brooke Ramirez
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Radha Mitchell, Timothy Granaderos, Emile Hirsch, Sarah Coffey, Brooke Ramirez
Written by: Chris von Hoffmann
Directed by: Chris von Hoffmann
MPAA Rating: R for violent content, language throughout, drug use, some sexual material and nudity
Running Time: 86
Date: 09/30/2022

Devil's Workshop (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This lightweight, semi-comedic horror movie begins interestingly enough and contains some unexpected moments, but its final stretch feels like a tasteless prank, cheapening the impact of the whole.

Clayton (Timothy Granaderos) has been a struggling actor for 15 years without making much headway. He shares an acting class with the obnoxious, overconfident Donald (Emile Hirsch), and they're both up for a role as a demonologist in a low-budget movie. With the weekend to prepare for their Monday morning callback, Donald commences partying with two other acting students, Nikki (Sarah Coffey) and Petra (Brooke Ramirez), while Clayton enlists the aid of a real demonologist, Eliza (Radha Mitchell), from whom he hopes to glean some helpful information.

But Eliza wants Clayton to stay the weekend so she can perform a ritual, which will cleanse him of his self-doubt. Unfortunately, the preparations for the ritual, involving goat's blood and a knife, are beginning to look a little less than ideal.

As soon as Devil's Workshop begins, we identify with the insecure, misfit Clayton and root for him to succeed. Granaderos gives him a nice combination of insecure and clueless. Hirsch, who is fond of overacting in movies like Dig, gets to do his stuff again here, and it works, given that he's actually playing an over-actor. He's a perfect villain. Writer/director Chris von Hoffmann — who made the "Ephebiphobia" segment in Phobias — splits his movie into two neat sections: Donald partying and Clayton attempting to tackle his inner demons.

They're perfect thematic and visual opposites, and von Hoffmann uses them for character-building as well as bits of humor. The actors are fully committed, from Granaderos making actor-y faces in the mirror, to Mitchell's measured, soft-spoken tones that mesmerize. And, even though her role is small, Sarah Coffey has a gleefully tense moment that will throw most viewers off-balance.

It's difficult to explain how everything goes wrong in Devil's Workshop without giving away the ending, but it leaves us with the notion that this was all a big joke, and that none of it ever mattered. There's a sense of betrayal, and a frustrating feeling that we have wasted our time.

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