Writer/director Heidi Lee Douglas blends virus horror with an ecological message in her latest Australian short film, Devil Woman. The result is an engaging effort that both educates and entertains.
Eddy (Marigold Pazar) is a university science student helping fellow ecology researchers Possum (Leith Alexander) and Alice (Flame Kimball) find proof that endangered Tasmanian devils live in trees in an area where logging is set to take place. Eddy captures video evidence that could prevent the trees being cut down, and then unwisely puts her arm inside a nest entrance to photograph the animals in there. She is bitten and infected. Two angry loggers (Peter Healy and Shaun Anthony Robinson) threaten the women if they don’t clear out that day. By the time the men return to see that they didn’t leave, the virus has turned Eddy into something feral and deadly.
Douglas, who debuted as a writer/director with 2014’s excellent Little Lamb (which is now available to watch online) helms Devil Woman with a keen sense of suspense and horror. While the loggers up the tension with their bullying tactics, Eddy is suffering in a tent, so the excitement builds on multiple levels. Douglas balances the panic and politics well, too, which is not an easy feat in cinematic horror offerings that try to deliver a message along with frights.
The cast is first-rate, with Pazar delivering an outstanding performance as a young woman who goes from mild-mannered to vicious. Meg White’s cinematography superbly captures everything from the beautiful forest scenery to the close-up practical gore effects.
The plight that Devil Woman addresses is called Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). According to Wikipedia, “Between 1996 and 2015, DFTD wiped out 95% of affected colonies.” Douglas calls attention to this disease with a horror short that will hopefully open new eyes, minds, and hearts to the situation while delivering a terrific slice of fear-fare cinema.
For more information, including film festival screening dates, visit https://www.facebook.com/devilwomanfilm/.
Devil Woman will screen at Women in Horror Film Festival, which runs February 27–29, 2020, at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information about the festival, visit https://www.wihff.com/.(4 / 5)