Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Damned

The Damned is a mildly entertaining movie that started with an interesting idea and fell promptly into familiar horror film tropes until at the end you didn't care a lot about what happened to anyone. I'm going to spoil the film, so if you're really burning to see it and be surprised by its charms, read no further.  I'M WARNING YOU.
  • Family Matters: The screenwriter overcomplicated the family relationships between the characters in a failed attempt to add depth to the story.  Rather than give us something we can hold onto and appreciate, like a father, mother, and child, we have a widower, his fiancee, his adult teenage daughter, his former sister-in-law (the dead wife's sister), and the former sister-in-law's colleague who happens to be the adult teenage daughter's wannabe boyfriend.  There was some strained byplay between these characters, but it never went anywhere.  If you're going to have tension between characters, you have to give us a side to root for, and this film didn't.  The characters just weren't terribly likable.  
  • The Evil That Men Do: The possessing force (the soul of a bruja/witch) can see into your spirit and know what sorts of evils you've committed.  From there, she guilts you into feeling worse about them so she can kill you (or force you to kill her so she can possess you.  The rule here is that the witch can only possess the person who's killed the body she's in, almost-but-not-quite like like Azazel in Fallen).  It turns out that the people who wind up freeing her just happen to include someone who pulled the plug on his dying wife early (Peter Facinelli) and a guy who uses teenage girls as drug mules, at least one of whom died during the process (Sebastian Martinez).  It seemed too pat, too overt.  I've known several pieces of human trash who haven't killed anyone: they're just bad people.  I'm sure most of us know some (or are some).  If you want subtlety and complexity, start with human stories we can relate to, not wife murderers and drug dealers.
  • Character Issues: Peter Facinelli was too young-looking for the role.  He did a good job with the material, but he wasn't convincing as the father of a 19-year-old girl.  The old man was okay, but not menacing enough in the beginning and not tragic enough in his death.  The cop was very good throughout, and his later appearance boosted the film significantly.  I hated to see him go.  The female characters weren't given enough to do, including the little girl, to make them more than disposable cut-outs.
  • Control Yourself: We learn that the possessing force is a witch, but her only power seems to be to possess people.  She can't control the weather or do anything else we typically associate with witches (it might have been interesting for her to have implied that she'd somehow created the downpour that sent the hapless characters to her hotel prison).  Fair enough, but the problem was that she just couldn't keep it together long enough to get to civilization.  She self-sabotaged by having the little girl she'd possessed start acting creepy and dangerous straight off the bat.  If her intent was to get out into the wide world, shouldn't she have just kept up the little kid act until they took her to the city?  Then she could have found a new person to possess so she could return to get her revenge on the families that were responsible for her imprisonment.
  • Location, Location, Location: There was no reason for this to have been set in Colombia.  They used very little in the way of Colombian culture or language, which was a shame.  With Colombia's rich myth cycle and folklore to draw from, this could have been a unique story.  It was a missed opportunity.  
Overall, I rate this movie 3 out of 5 stars.  I recommend it, but not strongly.

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