The Devil's Rock

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The Devil's Rock
TheDevilsRock poster2011 2k.jpg
New Zealand theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Campion
Produced byLeanne Saunders
Written byPaul Campion
Paul Finch
Brett Ihaka
StarringCraig Hall
Matthew Sunderland
Gina Varela
Karlos Drinkwater
Music byAndrea Possee
CinematographyRob Marsh
Edited byJeffrey Hurrell
Chameleon Pictures
Devil's Rock
Severe Features
New Zealand Film Commission
Distributed byMetrodome (UK)
Vendetta (NZ)
eOne (USA)
Release date
  • 8 July 2011 (2011-07-08) (United Kingdom)
  • 22 September 2011 (2011-09-22) (New Zealand)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryNew Zealand
Box officeUnknown

The Devil's Rock is a 2011 New Zealand supernatural war film produced by Leanne Saunders, directed by Paul Campion, written by Campion, Paul Finch, and Brett Ihaka, and starring Craig Hall, Matthew Sunderland, Gina Varela, and Karlos Drinkwater. It is set in the Channel Islands on the eve of D-Day and tells the story of two New Zealand commandos who discover a Nazi occult plot to unleash a demon to win World War II. The film combines elements of war films and supernatural horror films. The film was theatrically released on July 8, 2011 in the United Kingdom and September 22, 2011 in New Zealand. The film received mixed reviews from critics with the majority rating it average to above average and with many audience viewers on IMDB giving it a higher than average review.


On 5 June 1944, a unit of New Zealand commandos are sent to the Channel Islands on sabotage and distraction raids, to draw the German military's attention away from the planned landings in Normandy. That night, two New Zealand soldiers, Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater), paddle in their Klepper canoe to Forau Island, landing on a beach covered in anti-personnel mines and tank traps. When they leave the beach and head inland, they begin to hear distant screaming and gunfire. They approach a German fortification and hear what they think is a man being tortured. They climb down into a large gun pit and place explosives on a large artillery gun but are disturbed when a German soldier (Luke Hawker) runs out of a tunnel pleading for help. Grogan stabs the soldier in the back of the neck and kills him. They hear a woman screaming, and Grogan decides to investigate while Tane remains outside. However, when Tane hears a gunshot he also enters the bunker to investigate. While looking for Grogan, he discovers a book of black magic and, distracted by its contents, is killed by an unseen assailant. Grogan, unharmed, later discovers Tane's body but is immediately knocked unconscious by the Nazi.

Grogan wakes and is briefly tortured by a Nazi, Colonel Meyer (Matthew Sunderland), who wants to know his mission. During the interrogation, Grogan hears a woman screaming from another room. He eventually escapes and chases Meyer into the tunnels, shooting and injuring him. When he follows the sound of the woman's screams up to a room covered in occult symbols, he discovers that the woman is his dead wife, Helena (Gina Varela). Meyer enters the room and shoots Grogan in the leg, then shoots Helena in the head, apparently killing her. Grogan attacks Meyer, who explains the woman is a demon, summoned up from a book of black magic found on the island. Meyer proves this by offering her the leg of a dead German to eat; she changes into her true demon form as she eats the leg.

After Grogan removes a bullet from his abdomen, Meyer passes out. Grogan searches him and discovers a page torn from the book of black magic in a small pouch worn as a necklace by the Nazi. Grogan keeps the page after replacing it with another from the book. Soon after, Meyer recovers and explains the demon is a shapeshifter and a weapon the Germans plan to use against the Allies. He also explains that it is confined to the island because it cannot cross moving water. However, Meyer now realizes the demon poses too great a threat to the world. Meyer offers to give the book to Grogan if he will help him escape from Germany. Meyer then persuades Grogan to help him perform a ritual to dispel the demon back to Hell. Meyer, believing he is protected with the incantation sheet from the book, betrays Grogan at the end of the ritual.

As Meyer reveals his true intent to use the demon for the Nazis, Grogan overpowers Meyer and throws him to the demon. She brutally kills Meyer while Grogan survives, protected by the incantation he has taken from Meyer. When she tries to convince him to take her with him as Helena, he tells her that she could never replace the real Helena he knew, taking the opportunity to chain her up again. Unable to complete the ritual alone, Grogan takes the book and leaves the demon behind, to prey on any Germans that come to investigate; he explains to the demon that he intends to come back when the war is over to finish the ritual and to banish her forever. He leaves the key to the chain within reach as he leaves the demon in the bunker. He steps onto the beach, buries the photo of his wife Helena he kept with him, then looks up and sees planes flying overhead and an armada heading towards France. D-Day has begun.

One Nazi does fall prey to the demon, who masquerades as a German-speaking woman, Nicole, during a coda in the closing credits.


  • Craig Hall as Captain Ben Grogan
  • Matthew Sunderland as Colonel Klaus Meyer
  • Gina Varela as Helena/The Demon
  • Karlos Drinkwater as Sergeant Joe Tane
  • Luke Hawker as Private Muller
  • Jonathan King as Suicide German
  • Hadyn Green as Dead German
  • Jessica Grace Smith as Nicole
  • Geraldine Brophy as the Voice of the Demon


Filming The Devil's Rock in Gun pit No.1 at Wrights Hill Fortress

The film was produced by New Zealand producer Leanne Saunders and co-funded by the New Zealand Film Commission. Although set in Europe, the film was shot over 15 days[1] in August 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand, on sets built at Island Bay Studio, on location at Breaker Bay, and at Wrights Hill Fortress, a semi-restored World War II hilltop fortification. Special makeup effects for the film were created by Weta Workshop.[citation needed]

Historical references[edit]

The German Range Finding and Observation Tower MP4 in Guernsey, Channel Islands, which was the inspiration for the film

The film contains references to real historical events, and Campion has stated that he based the story on the German occupation of the Channel Islands. Guernsey's history of witchcraft and the occult includes the existence of the "Bad Books" (books of black magic), and copies can be found in two libraries in the Channel Islands. When Grogan and Tane hear screaming from within the fortification, Grogan thinks it is other allied commandos who are being tortured, stating, "You know what they did to Blondie's men in Bordeaux", a reference to the torture of captured Royal Marines during Operation Frankton under the command of Major Herbert 'Blondie' Hasler. As Meyer ties Grogan's thumbs with a piece of wire to torture him, Meyer talks about the Allied "gangster commandos, who raided these very islands and killed innocent German prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs", which is a reference to Operation Basalt, a British Commando raid on Sark during which a German prisoner was shot dead whilst his hands were tied, which in turn led to Adolf Hitler issuing his Commando Order, upon which the torture scene in the film is based. When Meyer is attempting to interrogate Grogan, he taunts Grogan's New Zealand background: "New Zealanders, a bunch of farmers driving around the deserts of North Africa, attacking by night and fleeing to hide like cowards", which is a reference to the New Zealand section of the Long Range Desert Group. Meyer also taunts Grogan by insulting the Maoris of New Zealand, which he describes as "the descendents of cannibals and headhunters", which is a reference to a 1940s German radio propaganda broadcast.[2]


Metrodome bought the UK rights in 2010 while the film was still in post production.[3] The film was released in theatres and video-on-demand services on 8 July 2011 and on DVD on 11 July 2011. The film was released in 21 cinemas New Zealand on 22 September 2011 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in December 2011. Entertainment One bought the North American rights at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

Film festival screenings[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The Devil's Rock received mixed reviews from critics. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 56%, based on 9 reviews, with a rating average of 4.8/10.[5] "Although it's a Kiwi production, The Devil's Rock feels like a more worthy successor to the Hammer Film Productions studios ethos than actual new Hammer-label product such as The Resident."[6]


The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Costume Design, and won for Best Makeup Design at the 2012 Sorta Unofficial New Zealand Film Awards.[7]


  1. ^ Gore Press (2011). "Paul Campion Interview". Gore Press. WordPress. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  2. ^ mbadmin (17 July 2009). "MĀORI TARGETED BY GERMAN PROPAGANDA". 28th Maori Battalion. 28th Maori Battalion. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  3. ^ Wendy Mitchell (6 November 2010). "Metrodome climbs New Zealand's Devil's Rock". Screen Daily. EMAP Ltd. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  4. ^ Suzan Ayscough (26 May 2011). "eOne reports Cannes spree". Screen Daily. EMAP Ltd. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  5. ^ "The Diveil's Rock (2012) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  6. ^ Tony Lee in Black Static 24 Aug - Sep 2011 page 36
  7. ^ Russell Baillie (5 November 2012). "eOne reports Cannes spree". NZ Herald.

External links[edit]