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‘The Devil to Pay’ review: Southern gothic tale about paying debts

The Southern Gothic and a hero’s quest converge in Ruckus and Lane Skye’s suspenseful film The Devil to Pay.

The Southern Gothic and a hero’s quest converge in Ruckus and Lane Skye’s suspenseful film The Devil to Pay. Lemon Cassidy lives in an isolated community in the Appalachian Mountains with her husband Tarlee and son Coy. The community is self-governed and sustained by bartering and deal making with the oldest family in the area, The Runions. Tommy Runion is the matriarch of the family and therefore the most powerful person in the community. The Cassidy’s owe Tommy and this sends Lemon on a journey to find her husband and collect what’s owed. Haunting settings, eccentric characters, and powerful performances fill the scenes of The Devil to Pay. 

Danielle Deadwyler plays Lemon Cassidy, a hard working woman who instills the legendary work ethic and survival skills of their family history in her son Coy. Cassidy soon finds the system is rigged against her and she soon has to transform from doting mother to an agent of vengeance in order to preserve her family. Deadwyler’s performance is phenomenal and adds a fierce edge to Lemon’s motherly persona. The scenes between Lemon and Tommy Runion, played by Catherine Dyer are particularly powerful. 

'The Devil to Pay' review: Southern gothic tale about paying debts

Dyer’s performance is diabolical. While every scene shows her humming and giving baking advice, she never stops adding tension. This is an interesting contrast. Tommy Runion delivers menacing threats while baking biscuits while Lemon gives her son advice on responsibility while working outside. This reveals Lemon’s tough nature under her loving exterior. The scenes between Tommy and Lemon are intense and amp up the suspenseful tone of the film. 

The cinematography of the film is very interesting. The setting becomes a character in the film and gives the perfect backdrop to the strange rituals and customs of this community hidden on a mountaintop.  Lemon travels through, asking friends for favors while carrying out favors for them. Lemon encounters a cult that worships nature and engages in a favor exchange with them. The cult, like the mist and woods of the scenery, all add to the slow build up of the terror that is found when the tranquility of the surroundings merge with the underlying menacing threat. 

'The Devil to Pay' review: Southern gothic tale about paying debts

The Devil to Pay is about paying debts, but it’s also about the release from debt and the honoring of traditions. While enemies are made along the way, Lemon makes valuable connections and shows that being true to your word is higher currency than money. The Devil to Pay is available On Demand and playing at drive-in theaters.

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