Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 6, 2022)
Hollywood displays a never-ending fascination with demonic tales. Into this crowded genre steps 2022ís Devilís Workshop.
Struggling actor Clayton (Timothy Granaderos) competes with fellow thespian Donald (Emile Hirsch) for a movie role as a demonologist. To get the leg up on his rival, Clayton recruits the assistance of expert Eliza (Radha Mitchell) as preparation.
While they spend a weekend together, things become more intense than Clayton anticipated. While Eliza runs him through the satanic wringer, Clayton needs to figure out if this exists as training or if she comes with a more sinister motive.
If nothing else, Workshop comes with a moderately interesting premise for a thriller of this sort. Whereas usual demon-related flicks start off dark Ďní heavy and continue from there, this one leans more comedic at the launch.
Well, sort of. We do get drama via the unhappy state of Claytonís life, but the film leavens those moments with laughs as well.
Most of those come from Hirschís Donald. Hirsch channels Jack Black and creates an amusingly self-absorbed egotistical actor.
Clayton seems less well-defined but that doesnít seem inappropriate for the story. Workshop wants a lead who exists as something of an empty vessel to allow the audience to better invest in his trials and tribulations.
When Clayton meets Eliza, Workshop should go to a different place and become a more involving tale. We find ourselves vaguely curious what Clayton will learn from Eliza Ė or more specifically, what will go wrong.
The answer becomes ďa lotĒ, but very little that seems interesting. In particular, the movieís tone seems erratic.
As noted, I liked the nod toward a lighter vibe at the start, as that offers an unusual feel for a movie in the thriller/horror realm. However, this domain becomes inappropriate for the rest of the story, which makes occasional comedic beats seem out of place as the movie progresses.
Not that the Clayton/Eliza scenes pack guffaws, but they can veer oddly light. In addition, the flick takes jarring, pointless detours to visit Donald, and these moments lack any discernible purpose other than to give Hirsch more screen time.
Once Clayton enters Elizaís house, the movie should stay there. We need a claustrophobic vibe and to feel trapped with him, so the shifts to get some chuckles with Donald damage the film.
Not that I think Workshop would excel otherwise, as the main narrative seems oddly lethargic. As much as the movie wants Claytonís experience to seem harrowing and dark, the impact remains negligible, so we donít get a sense of real horror along the way.
This leads Workshop to become a fairly dull tale, one also saddled with a ridiculous ending. The actors give it their best shot, but they canít redeem this sluggish thriller.
Footnote: a silly tag with Donald appears during the end credits.