The Devil’s Bath (2024) Movie Review – A deeply disturbing story about religious superstition

A deeply disturbing story about religious superstition

With a title like The Devil’s Bath, you might assume this new movie from Goodnight Mommy directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz is about one person’s descent into hell after getting into some very hot water. But this isn’t the case at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Devil’s Bath is about one woman’s attempt to achieve salvation and the shocking act she commits to ensure safe passage into God’s kingdom.

Set in 18th-century Austria, during a time when religious superstition was rife, the movie centres on a young woman named Agnes (Anja Plaschg) who, at the beginning of the story, gets married to a guy named Wolf (David Scheid), a fisherman from her village. The wedding is a happy and jubilant occasion but in the days that follow, Agnes becomes increasingly unhappy and depressed. 

Agnes is desperate to have a child, so looks forward to the day when Wolf can impregnate her. However, he is either unable or unwilling to do so, as he doesn’t have sex with her when they’re lying together in bed. This puts her in a tough situation, made worse by her meddling mother-in-law, who criticizes her constantly and blames her for not giving birth to a child. 

Over time, Agnes’s mental health starts to deteriorate to the point when she becomes suicidal. Mercifully, she decides not to kill herself. At least not in an obvious way. As suicide was considered an unforgivable sin by religious folk in 18th-century Europe, Agnes is afraid that she will face eternal damnation if she takes her own life. 

To save her soul, Agnes chooses to commit another sin – one that her religious community believes is morally reprehensible but still redeemable in the eyes of God. We won’t tell you what she does but her actions probably won’t be surprising to you if you pay attention to the shocking opening of the film which introduces us to a woman who seems to be as depressed as Agnes is. 

In 18th-century vernacular, depressed individuals were described as being trapped in the ‘devil’s bath,’ hence the name of the film. It was a different time to what it is now, with medical treatment for the mentally unwell that some may consider barbaric. Agnes endures one such treatment that involves the doctor wounding the back of her neck by creating two pinprick holes for the melancholia to leak out of her. The procedure doesn’t work of course and the same can be said of the other ‘cures’ that were inflicted upon those who were depressed during the period the film is set in.

The Devil’s Bath is a film with very little cheer. It’s a cold and oppressive movie with scenes that might disturb you. From decapitated heads placed in cages to warn villagers of the consequences of sin, to wedding games that involve the slaughter of chickens, this is not a film that offers a pleasant viewing experience. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t see it, however, as it provides a gripping viewing experience from beginning to end, despite the unremittingly bleak tone and abundance of disturbing imagery. 

Despite the past credits of the directors (Goodnight Mommy, The Lodge, The Field Guide to Evil) and a streaming release on Shudder, The Devil’s Bath is not a horror film in the traditional sense. There are no monsters here, or scenes of devil worship or witchcraft. However, it is still a film that will unnerve you, due to its depiction of a time in Austrian history when societal expectations meant the mentally ill (usually women, as is mentioned at the film’s end) were forced to do unimaginable things to ensure their chances of salvation.

The unsettling soundtrack, the colourless cinematography, and the occasionally bloody visuals, all add to the foreboding atmosphere of this relentlessly grim story. It’s not a film that you’ll necessarily enjoy (in the sense of being entertained) but if you watch it with the right frame of mind, you might come away satisfied, due to the excellent filmmaking from the directors and the performances from the cast. It’s one of the best releases to hit Shudder’s streaming platform in quite some time, so is definitely worth seeing if you think you can stomach it. 


Read More: The Devil’s Bath Ending Explained

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 8/10