From blues songs to horror movies, stories about Faustian pacts have inspired countless artistic works for centuries. These tales typically involve people selling their souls to a devilish figure in exchange for wealth, power, knowledge, fame, or revenge. Daniel Wilson’sThe Devil Went Down to Islington puts a fresh spin on the concept, as it centres around a down-on-his-luck slacker who sells his soul to the Father of Lies for good fortune.
The story takes place on Halloween weekend and follows John (Spencer Brown), an underperforming schoolteacher who thinks that career woes and dead cats are the worst of his problems. That’s until he and his mate Nick (James Lance) meet The Devil (Dominic Coleman) after a night of lager and shots, who inspires them to unwittingly sign a questionable contract. John lands a date with his crush, Zoe (Sophie Colquhoun), and Nick scores a big lottery win. All is going well, but it’s only a matter of time until their lives take another downturn.
After realising the error of their ways, the foolish friends turn to Father Crowley (Michael Smiley) for help. However, the priest also has to contend with some killers in angel masks who are offing the locals, but he instructs John and Nick on what they have to do to beat Beelzebub.
The Devil Went Down to Islington will draw comparisons to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Like Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) in Edgar Wright’s horror comedy, John and Nick are slackers who must overcome insurmountable odds. The film even employs quick cuts to summarise mundane story beats, such as John’s quest to retrieve his phone after being wrongfully arrested for selling class As to minors. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing, as these characters are charming oafs in their own right, and the film is frequently funny.
While speaking to the Islington Gazette, screenwriters Alex Martin and Rutger Andree Wiltens revealed that they conceived The Devil Went Down to Islington after a few jars at the Marquess Tavern. We’ve all had ambitious ideas after a night out, but they’re usually forgotten when we hit the hay afterwards. Martin and Wiltens deserve credit for sticking with their idea and bringing it to life, and they’ve managed to turn it into a charming and enjoyable comedy.
The Devil Went Down to Islington provides light, breezy viewing with plenty of laughs. The charismatic performances from its cast go a long way, but viewers hoping for scares might be disappointed. As far as comedies go, though, it’ll hit the spot for anyone who’s made bad decisions after a night down the local.