I Trapped the Devil Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by IFC Midnight

Written and directed by Josh Lobo
2019, 83 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 26th, 2019

AJ Bowen as Matt
Susan Burke as Karen
Scott Poythress as Steve

i trapped the devil 01 i trapped the devil 02


The Devil. Satan. Old Scratch. Lucifer. The Morning Star. Beelzebub. Belial. Call him what you want, but there’s no easier villain to blame for all the ills befalling humankind. On that note, writer/director Josh Lobo (credited as “Art Department” on the brilliant Dave Made a Maze) brings you a debut film that isn’t going to do the archfiend any favors in the reputation department.

I Trapped the Devil is the story of Matt (AJ Bowen; You’re Next) and Karen (Susan Burke; Southbound), a couple who pop in on Matt’s older brother, Steve (Scott Poythress; Homeland), in the old family home. Steve is clearly not operating on all cylinders. There’s newspaper over all the windows in stark contrast to the cheery Christmas decorations pairing nicely with the ubiquitous “crazy string map” in the attic, and he tells them to leave immediately. Lo and behold, Steve has a solid reason for his nutty behavior: he’s got Satan trapped in the basement behind a locked door covered with a large cross. Has Steve completely lost his shit, or is there more here than meets the eye? Is he saving mankind or simply out of his mind?

It seems that in every review there’s at least one word or phrase that is almost impossible to avoid, so I’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way. The phrase is “slow burn”. Make no mistake about it, folks – I Trapped the Devil is the very definition of slow burn. I’d say that it doesn’t need to be, but there would need to be about twenty or so minutes of motivation explaining dialogue and backstory slipped in, which would feel unnecessary, so it’s a bit of a catch-22. Sometimes it’s best to simply let something be the silent, visual monster that it is even when the pacing suffers greatly for it. That’s what you’re dealing with here.

i trapped the devil 03 i trapped the devil 04

The cast is outstanding and bring a real sense of brevity that keep that slow burn from being a snoozefest. AJ Bowen is a standout in the highly underrated You’re Next, and he’s more of the same here. Susan Burke may be on her way to becoming a genre name; there’s something about her that just shouts modern-day scream queen. Scott Poythress, however, really carries the film as the brother on the edge of madness. There’s nothing Hollywood about him. Quite the opposite…he’s an everyman you can believe. For a small cast, I am quite impressed with the quality on the screen.

Visually, I Trapped the Devil is a treat. The color palette is pure Christmas nightmare. From the red basement to the dingy kitchen and wintry outdoors (all bathed in stringed lights), Josh Lobo clearly has a look that he is going for and achieves. A signature visual hook is hard to pull off this early in a career, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t doing just that. It’s so much fun to see the beginnings of an artist who understands the genre and is just starting to spread his or her wings.

i trapped the devil 05 i trapped the devil 06

The message and theme are universal in their relatability. We ARE talking about the Devil, after all! There’s a conversation that takes place between the brothers in the middle portion of the film where Steve says that there are two kinds of evil: the evil of man against himself and pure evil. That’s the heart of the film. If you had the Fount of Pure Evil trapped, wouldn’t you do anything to keep him from getting back out? You could change the course of human history! It’s a hellish scenario (pun definitely intended) that even the non-religious out there can get a grasp on.

Yeah, it drags more than a bit in the first two-thirds. However, it’s forgivable for the sake of setting up the final act (which comes off beautifully). Have you ever had one of those film experiences where you’re thinking about pulling the plug and then the electricity hits you good and hard? That's I Trapped the Devil. The ending is sublime.

To put it in pop-culture terms (both for this film and Josh Lobo’s future): remember that old Heinz Ketchup commercial from the ‘80s that’s all about the idea of good things coming to those who wait? I Trapped the Devil is like that.

Have some patience. It’ll be rewarded.

i trapped the devil 07 i trapped the devil 08


Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
Other articles by this writer



Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...