It wasn't long ago when "choose your own adventure" novels were all the rage. I remember them fondly, and up until recently, the visual media world had nothing like it. Then came along "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch," and even Kimmy Schmidt got in on the action. The format is still in its early stages and isn't catching on as the old books did; but that didn't stop Mark Garvey from dipping into this unusual format, using YouTube links as the vehicle for paths chosen.
Even if I hated "'Twas the Devil," which I don't, I would still have to concede to the sheer amount of work put into a project like this. A branching storyline is no small feat, whatever medium you decide to present on, and a certain amount of respect is earned for the accomplishment alone. But does respect equal a guaranteed source of entertainment? I have my opinions, and you'll have yours, so for now, let me get into my experience with this film and go from there.
"'Twas the Devil" follows Zachary on his mission to take the remains of his wife, who is in a wooden box, and give her the proper sendoff she deserves. Agnes, his wife, was tried as a witch and drowned, and throughout the film, we learn some of the grisly details. At least, in my version of the film I did, because you see, reader, "'Twas the Devil" could play out differently for you, and with that written, I'm trying to keep the descriptions vague. Here's what I can say with almost one hundred percent certainty - I kept thinking about the theme song to "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" as the movie progressed. Why? Because essentially, Mark Garvey's film involves meeting someone at every turn. As Mr. Rogers' theme song goes, "Who are the people in your neighborhood? They're the people that you meet when you're walking down the street each day." This precisely sums up "'Twas the Devil" one hundred percent.
The excessive walking and talking aside, the film also asks questions of religion and even free choice. Decisions, decisions, decisions. What this film does lack is any amount of real action or adventure. I'll get into that more below but remember, my experience may be different than yours. That's the true beauty of this film.
Okay, here's the thing. As cool as "'Twas the Devil" is conceptually, it can quickly get a teeny bit tiring. For the most part, there indeed was nothing much more than walking around and meeting people. In most cases, these entire sequences did absolutely nothing to push the story forward. For example, a scene that actually made me laugh involved Zachary meeting up with a man who didn't speak English. He ended up mirroring Zachary's queries exactly in his own native language, unbeknownst to either of them. It was funny. I laughed. But honestly, there was no point at all in the chance encounter. It did nothing for the story... so why even put it in? I can honestly write that at least half the film was like this. Random encounters with no forward movement, except that you were one decision closer to finishing the journey. Some form of action or adventure would have really helped add balance.
I also found the ending to be a little anti-climactic. I arrived in front of the water, and that was essentially it. After all that! Now, there are some dark moments in this film, no doubt. There are also some really great performances - even the really weird ones! But I believe that this story could have been wrapped up in fifteen or twenty minutes, with no real changes to the overall narrative. Again, my experience - yours may be different.
Yes, it's a cool idea. Yes, especially cool for a low-budget film. Also, yes, it does work, and I'm almost ready to play through again just to see how different things end up. But for most people, this is a film that involves a lot of walking and is very dialog-heavy, requiring patience I don't think many casual viewers will have. Still, it was fun, and it was unique - and I have no problem awarding three stars. If this is your thing, you'll most definitely enjoy yourself. If not...