Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Where the Devil Roams (2022)

FrightFest review – Where the Devil Roams (2022)


The Adams Family – John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams and (sometimes) Lulu Adams – have impressed with small-scale, unusual genre films – The Deeper You Dig and Hellbender – made in rough-hewn Catskills locations, with small casts and a sideways look at horror film conventions and the ups and downs of neglected America.  This is their most elaborate piece yet – a period carnival road movie, which still focuses on a scrambled version of the key trio as a new weird clan (the Axon Family) but has bigger sense of scale and a lot more people on camera … stretching to gruesome WWI flashbacks and an array of carnival performers (though we’re with third-rate, desperate carnies trudging through winter, so no need to push the boat out on crowd extras).

Seven (John Adams), once a doctor but unable to bear the sight of blood since the war, and Maggie (Toby Poser), once his nurse but now something close to a serial killer, do an odd, almost arty act supporting tatty-angelwinged daughter Eve (Zelda Adams), who can sing but not speak.  When a home invasion goes awry, courtesy of an axe-wielding Lulu Adams cameo, Eve steals a gristly organ which might be the heart of the devil’s lost girlfriend or a magic pincushion from rival act Mr Tipps (Sam Rodd), who nightly snips off his fingers into a bucket, and does her best to get the family act back together … with a view to making a splash at the Buffalo horror show.

Like other Adams Family joints, Where the Devil Roams invents most its mythology but makes it seem authentic American primitive belief.  With a 1930s setting, this weaves the horrors and privations of the Great War and the Depression into a tale of carny magic which would have delighted Tod Browning – stretches of the film are in near-monochrome with the proper 1930s filmlook, but the soundtrack (carrying over the musical elements of Hellbender) has a distinctly modern feel – while deploying crunchy, rotten, gruesome flesh and odd collage elements like discarded children’s shoes and smashed vintage dolls to make for a textured, almost tactile experience.  Poser gets the meatiest role as the killer in the family, sometimes bringing vigilante justice to oppressors, sometimes just getting a bee in her bonnet and striking, but fiercely devoted and self-sacrificing when it comes to her shambling husband – whose eyes have to be bound whenever the chopper is in use – and dissociational yet sly daughter.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.



One thought on “FrightFest review – Where the Devil Roams (2022)

  1. I thought it was brilliant

    Posted by david smith | August 25, 2023, 9:33 pm

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