“if you like horror movies about demons, possession and generally just need the T.V. to be on while you do something else then watch The Damned. If you only have two choices and the other one is The Hollow, watch The Damned. Otherwise, I would just steer clear of this movie because it’s basically as much fun as the flash flood that started it all, except less roller coastery.” – 2.3/5 (genre)
The Damned is just that, condemned to the purgatory of mediocrity. While that probably sounds a bit over the top it’s in perfect keeping with the feel and direction of the movie. The Damned is an under achieving and just somewhat lazy movie that doesn’t even bother to come up with anything original to throw into the mix. This is pure horror cliche at its finest, borrowing from every aspect of the demonic possession sub-genre, throwing it all into a blender and then splattering it onto a screen for someone to watch. Expect it isn’t even demonic possession despite the repeated “demonic voices” captions that kept coming up, the evil entity was a witch that found a way to stay alive for long periods of time. Essentially there’s (take your pick of demonic based movies and insert here) all mixed up.
Okay, so I’ve overplayed the mixed bag gig, but it helps to illustrate the feeling of the movie. This isn’t even the nod or homage of At the Devils Door to other demonic movies, and it certainly isn’t the insanity of Para Elisa, it’s a movie that just barely surpasses The Hollow, a made for T.V. SyFy production. At least The Hollow had an excuse.
Jill (Nathalia Ramos) is an 18 year old who is staying in Columbia with her aunt Gina (Carolina Guerra), who is a reporter, and Gina’s cameraman (also Jill’s boyfriend) Ramon (Sebastian Martinez). Her father David (Peter Facinelli) and soon to be stepmother Lauren (Sophia Myles) come to get Jill to take her back to the U.S. for their wedding, because Lauren insists she will not get married without Jill there. Since when has that level of intrusiveness and manipulation ever won over a step child? The only thing that was rather poignant in this movie, and I’m sure the writers just stumbled into, is when Gina is reporting about children who are in need and are getting help from volunteers, but Gina interviews her niece Jill who is pretending to be a volunteer. Ramon makes the joke about why Gina doesn’t interview the actual volunteers instead of the white girl. There’s actually a lot of social commentary there that is worth being said, and an aspect of the horror genre I love so much. It doesn’t get taken seriously as a genre and so isn’t under the same level of scrutiny other genre’s face, and therefore can make strong social statements that need to be said but everyone else is afraid to say. Later on in the movie both abortion and what I assumed to be in reference to essentially euthanizing someone comes up, but again these are glossed over as the witch “messing” with their heads and never really lead anywhere that could make any real statement. This only served to reinforce my stumbled into hypothesis.
They as a group have to go pick up Jill’s passport from Gina’s home a couple of hours away and so they head out down some back roads that Gina insists she knows very well. However, a bad storm hits and they are caught in a flash flood that flings there vehicle down a hill, rolling them several times and wrecking the car, and yet somehow only Lauren came out injured and with only a couple of broken ribs (which she seemed to often forget she had as she moved about). Ramon finds a path that leads to a house and they go up to it, where an old man allows them to come in but tells them they have to stay in one room. To cut to the chase they (Jill) fail to stay in the room and end up finding a little girl locked in a room in the basement. They fight off the old man, such a difficult task considering he must of been in his 60’s+, and let the girl out. But it’s obvious she isn’t just a little girl from the moment she comes out. The cliche meter is off the scale here: There’s an evil young girl, she’s bound in a room by symbols and signs (pentagram and such, getting yet another bad rap), cockroaches that always accompany any self-respecting demon out on the town and the general idiocy of the victims that precedes their victim-hood (referring only to horror movie killed by evil things victims, not real life). Let the excessive bloodbath begin.
You can pretty much sort out the movie from here, probably without even having to watch it. The characters are unremarkable, with little to no originality or even an attempt to set them apart from one another. They could have easily been interchangeable parts in a machine for as little difference it would make to switch about their roles, excluding family roles. The only thing that sets The Damned above The Hollow is that the actors made an attempt to make the most of the poorly written script, and were even convincing as the evil witch as she body hopped.
There was nothing special about the direction or the style of the movie, but in this case that was probably a good thing. The only thing that could have made this worse was the director getting crazy and trying out weird (new) shots and angles that only serve to confuse and disorient. Pretty much they stuck with the tried and true sudden appearances around corners, in mirrors, jump scares and blood, lots and lots of blood. Although to be fair it’s less blood than you can catch in even a regular T.V. show these days so it wasn’t like it was excessive. Despite all this depth of horror fare, I was actually finding myself bored during what were supposed to be the most intense moments, and quickly lost interest in the narrative. I suppose I should give some points for the fact that there was a narrative beyond the overarching story, as lesser films have failed to provide even this. So that goes in the pro category.
The ending is a an easily guessable one from the moment that they find the little girl locked in the basement. It didn’t take long to figure out where it was going, especially with the intro of David giving a voice over about secrets, and how most don’t mean much but others can be dangerous, or kill or some such. The real question is what secret he was referring to. Was it his own, Gina’s, Ramon’s, the old man’s or the seemingly innocuous cop who is apparently crucial to the story. Maybe the secret is that we are being tricked into a false sense of hope for the movie, instead of them just ending with the beginning, which is the ending. Wait what? At any rate the ending is unsatisfying and unrewarding, but essentially it stayed true to the movie’s context. Honestly, had some amazing ending popped out after all the bland stuff that came before I would have been a little angry. To know that I had to sit through all of the stolen ideas splattered on a wall (whiteboard?) to get to some great enlightenment that the writer had to share would have made things worse. The fact that the ending is exactly what we expect it to be feels much more right, and in that regard it makes it feel a little less horrible.
Overall, I had set out this movie in my list of movies to watch some time back and so I toughed it out and saw it through to the end. The Damned had the great misfortune of coming in on the coat tails of Anguish and The Sisterhood of Night for me, which really just killed it from the first sentence. However, if you like horror movies about demons (why we keep referring to her this way is beyond me, she’s a plain old Hollywood witch), possession and generally just need the T.V. to be on while you do something else then watch The Damned. If you only have two choices and the other one is The Hollow, watch The Damned. Otherwise, I would just steer clear of this movie because it’s basically as much fun as the flash flood that started it all, except less roller coastery.
Wait, is that the secret? She caused the flash flood and brought them there to set her free. No, now I’m just reaching for something to make it better. Also, what’s up with horror movies being so white? At least they asked the question.
Overall: 2.3/5 (genre)