Review: The Devil to Pay

Year: 2020
Runtime: 87 minutes
Directors: Lane Skye, Ruckus Skye
Writers: Lane Skye, Ruckus Skye
Stars: Danielle Deadwyler, Catherine Dyer, Jayson Warner Smith, Adam Boyer, Brad Carter, Ezra Haslam

By Joan Amenn

“The Devil to Pay” has been getting a lot of positive buzz, and deservedly so. It has been described as a thriller and a kind of Southern Gothic horror. While it is true these elements combine to make an engrossing story, the heart of the film is a mother’s love for her son. Lemon (Danielle Deadwyler) and her son Coy, (Ezra Haslam) are living a difficult, backbreaking life in the Appalachians. It is one of the poorest regions of America and also one of the most isolated. Lemon awaits the return of her husband who has left on an errand for a local matriarch of a powerful family who invokes a “creed” to maintain power under the pretense of keeping law and order. Lemon has never paid any mind to how her society shaped her life until she has to take action to protect her son. The love between them is the most believable, touching part of the film and little Ezra Haslam deserves a special shoutout for his portrayal.

Danielle Deadwyler in The Devil to Pay (2019)| Photo Credit: IMDb

However, the film belongs to Danielle Deadwyler who gives a tour de force performance. She conveys so much with her eyes, whether she is showing tenderness to her son or attempting to reason with those who have ensnared her family. Catherine Dyer as the matriarch Tommy is all smiles as she relishes flaunting her comparative wealth in front of Lemon and is a truly chilling villain. The best scenes are between Tommy and Lemon as one chirps away delighted at her own cleverness and the other maintains her steely resolve, even as she is crumbling inside.

“The Devil to Pay” has been getting a lot of positive buzz, and deservedly so. It has been described as a thriller and a kind of Southern Gothic horror. While it is true these elements combine to make an engrossing story, the heart of the film is a mother’s love for her son.”

“The Devil to Pay” is beautifully shot, revealing the lushness and potential menace of the Appalachian mountain the film’s characters call home. This is where many live who don’t want to be found, like the cult that plays a part in the twisted plot that Lemon finds herself in. There is an obligatory banjo solo, seeing that this is a story about the people of a rural backcountry. It is thankfully brief and surprisingly moving in its sincerity as performed by Brad Carter as one of the family henchmen sent to menace Lemon and her son.

Danielle Deadwyler in The Devil to Pay (2019)| Photo Credit: IMDb

Directors Lane and Ruckus Skye took a taut script that they also wrote and developed an even more edgy film from it. There are a few plot twists you won’t see coming and a real doozy of an ending. “The Devil to Pay” should be on everyone’s “Top Ten Films of 2020” list.  

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