I Trapped the Devil Is as Unclever as Its Title

No, there isn’t really much more to this deservedly forgotten film.


I Trapped the Devil. Available Wednesday, July 28, on IFC Films.

I Trapped the Devil—a 2019 film that got a you'll-miss-it-if-you-blink theatrical release, then was buried alive under the COVID-19 mess—has resurfaced on the IFC Film streaming service. This is sort of a mixed blessing. If you think of it as a film, you will scream for the sweet, blissful release of an axe buried in your head. But if you view it as a video version of the book The Idiot's Guide To 8mm Filmmaking (oh, stop Googling it, you idiot, it's a metaphor), there are a number of useful lessons for young, underfunded auteurs.

Don't spend a lot of money on advertising or promotion. Just give your film a descriptive title that only a half-wit could misconstrue. I Trapped the Devil is about a guy who, well, traps the devil. Behind a cellar door in his basement, if you're the kind of pedant fool who demands details.

Only numbskulls pay for source material. The entirety of  I Trapped the Devil is lifted from an out-of-copyright episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Howling Man" in which a guy—come on, how many times am I going to have repeat this?—traps the devil behind a cellar door.

Save on screenwriting costs by paying by the word. Look at all the useless but expensive explication saved by this exchange between a guy who has trapped—okay, good, you remember that part—and his brother, who has unwittingly stopped by with the wife for a Christmas visit. Brother: "How does this even happen?" Devil-trapper guy: "That's not important."

Neither the Emmys nor the Oscars have a category for "Best Use Of Electricity." Keep the bills down by shooting in the impenetrable black of Leave-The-Lens-Cap-On-O-Vision. When you absolutely have to be able to see something in a scene, illuminate your set with a strand or two of Christmas lights, which will also captivate critics as a reminder of the historic, blood-curdling animosity between Santa Claus and the devil.

You don't need a lot of pricey special effects for today's brain-damaged teenagers. You think pea soup grows on trees? Kids stupefied with molly or mushrooms will be satisfied with a devil who can make the lights flicker and the telephone ring. The latter is especially terrifying as we breathlessly wait for the inevitable auto-warranty pitch.

Plot is highly overrated. Once you've established from the title card that a guy trapped the devil behind a cellar door, how much more do you need? There were some gunshots and flashing knives in the murk at the end of I Trapped the Devil, but I have no idea what happened. Or even if that was really the end. Maybe IFC lost the last reel. Anyway, pass me the molly.