I Trapped the Devil is an unnerving Christmas horror tale


The spirit of Christmas is suffocated by pure evil in IFC Midnight’s I Trapped the Devil, a film about a mentally unstable man who claims to have Satan locked away in his basement.

I Trapped the Devil is written and directed by Josh Lobo. The movie follows married couple Matt (A.J. Bowen) and Karen (Susan Burke) as they show up unannounced at the home of Steve – Matt’s brother – to celebrate Christmas. When they arrive, however, the noticeably unwell Steve (Scott Poythress) is bothered by the prospect of them staying.

The tension between the estranged Matt and Steve is immediate and untamable, but their conversations are made slightly less difficult by several glasses of liquor. It isn’t long after they begin a dialog when Steve reveals to Matt that there is a man locked in his basement, and that his captive is none other than the devil himself.

I Trapped the Devil is a slow-burning descent into the madness of a fractured psyche and an exploration of the evil that drives us. Much like the basement captive, Lobo intentionally keeps viewers in the dark, refusing to give away easy answers in regard to his potential innocence.

In the case of Steve, though, his troubled mind is never in question. Scott Poythress is masterfully understated as the character, gaining sympathy in his portrayal of a man who is broken and deeply lonely but consigned to his own darkness. Steve longs for the love of his brother, but he is also very clearly a threat to himself and others.

i trapped the devil 2 – IFC Midnight

Lobo’s film works best in these moments between Steve, Matt and Karen, when we’re able to imagine a happier existence for the characters while simultaneously seeing the life being choked out of them by the pain of their past. Steve is hurt and abandoned, Matt is ridden by guilt and Karen is perpetually longing for greener pastures. The viewer gets the sense that, regardless of what actually happens in the film, these characters won’t be receiving a happy ending.

I Trapped the Devil is also immensely effective in the basement scenes. Lobo loads the film with a psychologically tormenting atmosphere, and the red-lit basement is its purgatory. The captive is locked behind a door that is covered by a large wooden cross, and hearing the deep, almost otherworldly voice coming from behind it is unnerving as hell, especially in contrast to the holiday scenery on display upstairs.

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The final act of I Trapped the Devil stumbles a bit when ambition gets in the way of its chilling tone, and its resolution is bound to leave some viewers dissatisfied, but three great performances and a nightmarish atmosphere makes this Christmas evil required holiday viewing. It’s one of the scariest Christmas horror films ever made.

Will you be watching I Trapped the Devil? Let us know in the comments.