Special Agent Daria Francis (12 Monkeys' Amanda Schull) was never much for small towns, so when a woman and her son go missing from the rural North Dakota community of Devil's Gate (hey, that's the name of the movie!), she chooses to go with a combination of painfully bored and overconfident/glib. It is tiresome. But then again, Francis was never much for anything beyond cracking the case, the kind of cop who likes her whiskey neat, her gun loaded and her relationships at arm's length. This is also tiresome. This whole movie is tiresome.

See, Devil's Gate has an identity problem, never knowing whether or how to settle into a genre. Is it horror? X-Files caliber sci-fi (the bad episodes)? Gritty cop drama/thriller? Whatever it is, it ain't great, and we're the ones who pay the price. Daria, like so many movie cops, has a checkered past, but doesn't let this dilute her dickish approach to everything and everyone when she shows up from some big city to investigate the disappearance. Even friendly local cops like Conrad (Shawn Ashmore, The Following) can't pierce Daria's jerk armor, but one thing's for sure: Amanda Schull is a bad actress.

For a time, it appears that the culprit is totally the husband Jackson (Heroes alum Milo Ventimiglia, who puts way too much into a stupid role, though maybe that's to be commended). To be fair, he has a spooky basement and a property full of death traps in the middle of nowhere, but just when we're ready to admit Daria may be right, we discover this is actually a movie about aliens. Jesus. What follows are some pretty terrible special effects, a couple mildly gruesome deaths and the sweet relief of only 90 minutes' running time.

It's sad, really, because Devil's Gate could have made a perfectly fine B movie if only it had embraced its camp, but director Clay Staub (whose credits include a whole lot of second-unit stuff in dumb movies like 300) opts for the too-serious. We feel bad for the actors—especially Ashmore, because we kind of like him otherwise—and our minds wander; the sequel setup at the end cuts deep.

4
+It ain't long
-Pick a genre already, jeez

Devil's Gate
Directed by Staub
With Schull, Ventimiglia and Ashmore
Jean Cocteau Cinema, NR, 94 min.