One of the most exciting filmmaking collectives working today, The Adams Family, returns. The family, comprised of directors John Adams, Zelda Adams & Toby Poser, has become a cult favorite among the horror community. Their 2021 film Hellbender gained acclaim among critics and fans alike. Their latest thriller, Where the Devil Roams steps up the production quality and fears alike. Once again, they are destined to make waves with the horror community as they craft new grotesque classics each time they step behind a camera.
Set during the Depression, Where the Devil Roams follows a carnival with an oddity-filled sideshow. Among the acts is a family. The PTSD-riddled father Seven (John Adams), the violent yet passionate Maggie (Toby Posner), and the young but silent Eve (Zelda Adams) are only receiving middling crowds. However, they make their fortune on the road, killing those who insult them as they travel between carnival stops. When their luck runs out, Eve steals a secret treasure from another act (Sam Rodd), and they believe they’ve found a new golden goose. However, their new fortune carries an unthinkable curse.
Where the Devil Roams cements The Adams Family as one of the great indie horror teams. They’ve already shown a dark edge few directors have been willing to duplicate. Yet this time, they show their ambitions far beyond simply scaring the audiences. The thematic resonance of Where the Devil Roams ties into beautiful, German Expressionist-inspired visuals. Zelda and John once again take the helm as co-cinematographers. Their visual storytelling takes a giant leap, and the images they craft will burn into your brain.
Additionally their murders, many of which are too violent for words, feel like acts of survival. Even as it becomes clear there’s a sick serial killer twist to the family, we root for their fortune. It’s a clever trick, providing heart and goodwill to protagonists that could easily fit into a Rob Zombie or Eli Roth film. Instead, the Adams Family craft their unique visions of gore and spectacle on the fringes. Within the story, some characters are sickened by the mere sight of violence, while others reap a voyeuristic joy from the mess.
Zelda’s performance stands out once again, but John’s PTSD helps him establish a soul to Where the Devil Roams. It’s ultimately their performances that lock us into the story. Posner brings menace and darkness rarely seen on screen, perhaps most clearly in adaptations of Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. Her complicated performance delivers a crushing blow at the end of act two. This motivation and framing help sell the final act as a whole.
During Act Two, Where the Devil Roams loses some momentum. The road-trip format during this section effectively lays out the family’s desperation. However, the actual beats on how they overcome that desperation feel slightly repetitive. This might be the one aspect that leaves the audience wanting more. With slightly more development earlier in the movie, The Adams Family might have been able to avoid the issues in this section of the film.
Despite this slight issue, Where the Devil Roams oozes style and creativity. While it represents The Adams Family’s darkest feature yet, it’s also one of the most creative films of the year. With unique visuals and brilliant horror setpieces, the slow-burn nature mostly works out to its advantage. With a little more character development, the directing team is gearing up to make a true masterpiece in the next few years.