Winner of Best Comedy Feature and the Best Feature Actor prizes at Atlantic City's Downbeach Film Festival, co-writer/director Joseph Pepitone's The Jersey Devil is is a low-budget devil of a good time starring Jack Mulcahy as Lucifer, whose time as the not quite almighty is up as he's being forced to turn over the reins of hell to Burnett (Keith Collins). Burnett is an ambitious dark lord of sorts who immediately plans to shake hell up by moving it to, you guessed it, New Jersey. With his "devil's advocate" Richard (Edvin Ortega) by his side along with Richard's maybe/maybe not ex-girlfriend Tori (Penelope Lagos), Burnett sets out to massively increase soul recruitment by giving the people they want.
With the ultimate vision of taking on the Lord (Chris Mulkey), Burnett's big plans start to roll out while Lucifer, not exactly pleased that everything he's put into place over the years, is aided by trusted confidantes Judas Iscariot (Stephen Fontana) and Eve (Rosie Gunther) in coming up with a plan to reclaim hell and sabotage Burnett's efforts.
If you're the ultra-sensitive type about your religious humor, you might want to avoid The Jersey Devil, a spirited and fun comedy that doesn't hesitate to make fun of everyone involved. At times, it almost feels like a dash of Sandler, a bigger dash of Kevin Smith and a big ole' whopping dose of Joseph Pepitone.
The Jersey Devil benefits greatly from its ensemble cast and the nicely paced comedy wrapped around a weaving together of zippy one-liners and chemistry-building set-ups from the Pepitones. While you can tell the film's a low-budget indie, especially in its sound mix with occasional echoes, Pepitone and his cast and crew more than make up for the technical challenges of low-budget filmmaking by filling the film with an abundance of laughs and characters we actually care about.
Although, I'm not sure I'm supposed to care about characters in hell.
The award-winning Jack Mulcahy is, indeed, terrific as Lucifer while Keith Collins is appropriately smarmy as an evil young whippersnapper with bigger and badder plans. Penelope Lagos, who kept reminding me of Mila Kunis, adds just the perfect touch of heart as Tori, a stripper whose not a hooker. Stephen Fontana's facial expressions are a comedy act unto themselves, while Rosie Gunther and Edvin Ortega round out the major players in fine fashion.
The film's original music by Zazu Pitts is absolutely terrific and D.P. Cory Green accomplishes wonders despite the challenge of working with a limited budget.
The Jersey Devil may sound familiar, but one of the joys of working in the indie world is that you can take things a bit further and make it all a bit edgier. Joseph Pepitone doesn't hesitate to do so here, though he does it in a way that complements the story rather than dominates it. A little dark and a whole lot of fun, The Jersey Devil will make you laugh though there may very well be hell to pay later.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic