If you’re going to cross­breed hor­ror with anoth­er gen­re, the crime film is one of the best choic­es. It’s a sur­prise that it’s not done more often as this kind of cross­breed makes per­fect sense: both gen­res deal in the dark side of life, fea­ture the threat of vio­lence around the cor­ner and often depict the past com­ing back to haunt its char­ac­ters. A recent film that grasps this dual­i­ty is The Devil’s Business — and it man­ages to play the two gen­res again­st each oth­er in ways that are often inven­tive.

DevBus-bluThe Devil’s Business starts with a sim­ple crime flick setup: two men are dis­patched to break into a home and wait for its own­er, who they have been instruct­ed to kill. Pinner (Billy Clarke) is the vet­er­an of the duo and he’s a bit annoyed with Cully (Jack Gordon), his wet-behind-the-ears part­ner on the job. Their tar­get is Kist (Jonathan Hansler), a rival to their boss. Of course, this is no aver­age hit: the house har­bors some macabre sur­pris­es and the even­tu­al meet­ing with Kist reveals this is no ordi­nary hit.

The Devil’s Business is fun to watch because writer/director Sean Hogan knows both of the gen­res he’s work­ing with quite well. In fact, the first thir­ty min­utes plays like an old-fash­ioned British gang­ster flick and he’s clev­er enough to keep the hor­ror ele­ments sub­tle and just out of view for most of the run­ning time. Nicola Marsh’s dig­i­tal cin­e­matog­ra­phy uses the story’s enforced low-light­ing visu­al setups to atmos­pher­ic effects and Justin Greaves con­tributes a chilly, like­ably sub­tle elec­tron­ic music score.

DevBus-posThe film’s one notable flaw kicks in when Hogan over­reach­es for a slam-bang hor­ror finale that’s out of step with the sub­tle­ty of what pre­ced­ed it. That said, The Devil’s Business is a clev­er and engag­ing take on famil­iar gen­res over­all (a big mono­logue Kist gets late in the film is par­tic­u­lar­ly inspired). It’s also nice to see a mod­ern hor­ror film that invests heav­i­ly in char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and dia­logue over easy shock effects.

The Devil’s Business also ben­e­fits from above-aver­age per­for­mances for a low-bud­get hor­ror item. Clarke, with his flinty stare and no-non­sense atti­tude, achieves an effort­less grav­i­tas as a crim­i­nal with some bad mem­o­ries and Gordon makes a like­ably goofy new­bie to off­set Clarke’s inten­si­ty. Hansler is also quite good in a small but potent role as the tar­get: he car­ries some of the film’s biggest nar­ra­tive con­cepts on his shoul­ders and does it with skill.

In short, The Devil’s Business has some rough edges but wins out over­all thanks to its nov­el approach to gen­re-blend­ing. If you like both hor­ror and crime fare, this is a fun bit of mod­est­ly-bud­get­ed clev­er­ness.

Blu-Ray Notes: The Devil’s Business was cho­sen as the sec­ond title for blu-ray release for Mondo Macabro, in a blu-ray/DVD com­bo set, and the results are impres­sive. The blu-ray’s trans­fer does well by the film’s mix­ture of night­time shoot­ing and pri­ma­ry-col­ored light­ing and the DTS sound offers an appro­pri­ate­ly rich sound­scape. Extras include an EPK, music videos and inter­views with the direc­tor, pro­duc­er Jennifer Hansdorf, Clarke and, in a nice touch, com­poser Greaves. Like The Slave, it’s anoth­er qual­i­ty blu-ray release for Mondo Macabro and will please the label’s fans.