FEBRUARY 26, 2008
Let me begin my review by offering one half of an apology to one Ryan Rotten*, who writes for Shocktillyoudrop.com. Last week, he expressed his distaste for two films: Wrestlemaniac and Catacombs. As I had just gotten Wrestlemaniac, I checked it out the next night, and as you know, I thought it was a lot of fun. So I assumed I’d feel the same about Catacombs, and thus rented it the next day (yes, I rent movies often days before I have time to watch them – something that probably only makes sense to me). But now that I’ve seen it, Rotten was not only right, but he was almost too kind. This movie isn’t just bad; it’s a colossal piece of shit.
Just a heads up, I will be spoiling the (idiotic) ending in the review. But really, as stupid and inane as it is, it’s actually not just foreshadowed, but practically sledgehammered into the film, so you might figure it out before the big reveal. If not, well, all the more power to you.
So throughout the whole film, Shannyn Sossamon (between this, The Order, and One Missed Call, I’m gonna go ahead and hope I never see a single horror film with this woman again) is running from a guy in a goat mask. Literally 80% of the film is just her, running, screaming “Fuck!”, falling down, etc. Every now and then you see the guy chasing her, but he sort of disappears for a while and she just keeps running anyway. Right from the start of this abortion, she tells you that her sister and friends are all dead (the film is her flashback). So A. we have a film in which only one person is ever shown in danger, yet we know she survives (even without the flashback structure spoiling it, how would our only character die?), and B. we have a film in which supposedly all of her friends are killed, yet as time goes on, you will notice that other than her sister, no one is dying (or even present). Oh, and her sister keeps mocking Sossamon for being afraid of danger. And the friends play pranks. And one of the guys tells this wholly idiotic story about a killer in the tunnels, apropos of nothing. And again, nothing much is happening. Hmm... figure it out yet?
Yes, there is no “killer”. The sister and her friends just played a prank on Sossamon, in order to get her to “live a little” and "face her fear". In addition to simply being totally fucking lame, it’s yet another movie prank that would fall apart with any number of fairly simple actions. What if she stopped to take her "dead" sister’s pulse? What if she actually killed the guy playing the killer when trying to defend herself (which she actually does, but only at the end)? Etc. To its credit, the film actually DOES regain some semblance of sense halfway through, when the party everyone is attending is broken up by the cops and she is knocked out in the ensuing panic, leaving her down there all alone. As we learn in the big reveal, at this point her friends began looking for her, but their attempts to contact her were mistaken as screams from the killer by a now quite crazy and upset Sossamon. Fine. Still stupid, but fine.
But it’s not over. After the big reveal, which is presented like those in the Saw films (same producers after all), i.e. lots of flashbacks to things we just saw, all edited together in case we didn’t "get it" (there’s even a Charlie Clouser-esque instrumental here), the sister (who is played by Pink, for the hell of it) notices that Sossamon has just “stupidly” killed the guy who was attacking her. Pink then screams at Sossamon, as if SHE'S in the wrong for defending herself against a guy who for all intents and purposes was trying to kill her, and begins smacking her around. So what does Sossamon do? Swings a pickaxe at Pink, and then everyone else. In the end, our “hero” is the only one who actually kills anyone in the entire film.
To be honest, had the entire movie before it not been so goddamn wretched, this wouldn’t have bothered me. In fact I almost think it’s kind of ballsy to have the heroine go batshit and wipe out all of her friends in 30 seconds. But by that point, I hated the movie so much, it wasn’t nearly enough to save it.
Making matters even more excruciating, Sossamon isn’t even remotely likable. Hot, yes, but not likable. She’s presented as a dour, whiny, mousy party pooper (why she’s like this is never explained). So let’s recap – it’s a horror movie with only one unlikable character spending 75% of the movie trying to escape when she tells us right from the start that she is the only survivor of the night, thus rendering any and all scenes of her in danger automatically un-suspenseful and un-scary. OK, movie.
On a technical level the film is a total waste as well. Do you know any epileptics you want to die? Make them watch this movie, which is about 50% strobe lights (even the goddamn flashlights blink on and off in a rapid manner in several scenes). The other 50% is, I’m not joking, just TOTAL fucking black screens. Unlike The Descent, which sold the dark empty caves brilliantly by usually showing one of the girls against an entirely dark background, these geniuses just chose to make the film just total blackness in several scenes, not realizing that this doesn’t make it scary – for all I know they are just cutting to a credit sequence or a commercial. You need to contrast the smallish bit of light around the character with the total blackness of the rest of the area, otherwise it’s not a BLACK screen, it’s a BLANK screen. You know, like the 5 seconds before the FBI warning.
OK, quick, which one of those is a still from the movie, and which is something I made in MS Paint? Correct! The more rectangular one is from Paint. How can you tell? Because it’s a rectangle and not a fucking square!
Yes, Lionsgate apparently hired a blind newborn baby to master the DVD, resulting in not only a non-anamorphic transfer (despite the fact that the goddamn menu IS 16x9 enhanced), but an image that looks like a full screen Youtube video (complete with black smearing and pixels in just about every scene), with the added bonus of a strange blue line running vertically on the side of the image. They also botched the setup of the DVD, and as a result the film wouldn’t even play at all on my DVD player, instead just looping the traditional 59 hours of LG trailers for infinity (I had to watch it on my PS3 instead). Funnily enough, when I noticed this error I thought it might have been my player that was malfunctioning, so I decided to grab another DVD to make sure it was working right. I purposely chose another LG DVD, knowing it would have a similar setup (i.e. 59 hours of trailers, plus the commentary warning). Anyway, the title I chose was High Tension, so it was fitting that this film turned out to have a similar (but far, far worse) “copout” ending.
The commentary is equally repulsive, as the directors seemingly have no idea that they have made the dumbest fucking horror movie in ages, and instead tell us how much people liked the shot of the Eiffel Tower (never seen it before in a Paris set film, thanks guys!) and inadvertently not only revealing how long this filth has been on the shelf, but also how little they understand about the concept of time:
Director 1: “We shot this right after 9/11...”
Director 2: “2005?”
Nice work. Not only does one of these schmucks think 4 years is “right after” a tragedy that has ZERO fucking relation to the movie (he brought it up because there’s an airport scene), but we also know that it took at least 2 years (giving them a generous amount of time to edit) for even Lionsgate, who will distribute home movies of your kid’s birthday if anyone with a mask appears in it, to finally toss this one out to the masses. Later on the track, they blame the death of producer Gregg Hoffman (which was in 2005) and the studio’s focus on the Saw films for a good chunk of the delays, but they also boast that because of the latter, they were able to take their time to edit the film, without interference from anyone. I was considering maybe the studio re-edited this into the mess that it is, but nope! They also contradict themselves on this matter, claiming at another point that they were “rushed” in the post production process regarding the sound mix.
I really fucking hate this movie.
What say you?
*Ryan also just informed me that heavy profanity will result in your website not being tracked by certain search engines. So uh... yeah I'm pretty fucked I guess.