Co-written by Jeremy Berg and John Portanova and blending elements of sci-fi, horror and let's face it, family drama, director Berg's The Device moves away from conventional films in several directions. I'm not an especially big sci-fi fan, but when it's done right I enjoy the hell out of it and count Alien (1979), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and 2009's Moon as three of my most favorite films, any genre. I also really enjoyed the recent Dark Skies (2013) and am one of the biggest fans of The X-Files perhaps ever. So though I don't exclusively seek out science fiction, I do love sci-fi done well.
The Device teases us with the possibility of aliens, but doesn't base the film on the search for extraterrestrials like so many films before it. It first wounds our emotions and forces us to care about the people involved in the story, instead of just throwing some little green men our way. We come to have a vested interest in who may be getting hurt by what is going on, instead of trying to find out where they came from and what they want. This change-up in format and technique is welcome and leads to a more personal film, despite the scares.
When Rebecca discovers that the device is in the cabin, she freaks out and starts saying they should not have brought it back with them and that she wants to go home. Calvin and Abby privately discuss how they can help Rebecca face her demons and move on, as a family. But that night Abby has a vivid yet eerie dream in which Rebecca warns her they must leave the cabin, disturbing her enough that the next morning they pack up and head home.
The actors in The Device are totally capable and come off as people you would be friends or neighbors with, in particular the two female leads. They are quite convincing as sisters trying to reconnect and more importantly deal with a long ago trauma that led to their separation. Their angst about this crossroad in their relationship is one of the best parts of the movie.
The Device is yet another solid film from The October People, combining unnerving sci-fi elements with a depth of characters you will actually care about when they face the dreadful circumstances thrown at them for not following their gut instincts and turning back, deciding instead to pry into worlds unknown, with a devastating outcome.