Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Devil's Tomb (2009)

Lose the gun soldier and grab a cross

A classified research/archeological station was hit in the desert by an unexplained event. A team of military specialists headed by a Captain Mack (Cuba Gooding Jr.) are instructed by a C.I.A. operative named Cardell (Valerie Cruz) to extract a Dr. Lee Wesley (Ron Perlman) who was seen prior on a security feed with an ambiguous, almost prophetical speech as to what went wrong. Right when they arrive the team encounters an unresponsive priest with unexplainable sores. They head down to a safe room that might house Wesley but come across more strange characters, including another man named Duncan (Bill Moseley) who's off of his rocker with religious tirades. They try and get out but something evil keeps pulling them deeper and deeper back in until they find something out that's above their regular duty as soldiers and is as old as mankind itself.

This plays out something like a second rate "Prince of Darkness" except with military involvement instead of college students to represent victims. For a share of the beginning half the events are conflicting enough as to lose the audience in its hidden meaning, with unexplained inflictions, hallucinations and zombie like people who spit out a fluid that infects others. It feels like a blender of ideas from other horror movies thrown into one except without looking back and measuring them out to fit snuggly to their own story. There are some gory scenarios that occur but the horror angle is far from terrifying. Yeah, shooting at something you can't kill outright or your own team turning on each other is alarming but the way it happens is treated in such a random, unchallenging way as to lose impact. The majority of the characters you could care less about, so when someone does get scared, wounded or killed you can't help but wish they all would. Former Black Flag front man Henry Rollins shows up as a priest named Fulton who seems to be the midway "answer guy" that acts all skittish and only gets in the way. They move from one unmemorable room to the next, sometimes drawn out from the pack as a form of recruitment to the other side. Some of these scenarios include temptations of sex that leads to violence as if they're linked by nature.

There are some quips and banter among the soldiers as if they're nothing but immature teenagers and this is just another bs job that's taking up their precious time. Words like "professional," "intuitive" or "stand up character" are from qualities listed on their resumes. This has some jumpy shifts back and forth between seriousness and joking. The jokes make this more easy and uncomplicated, but some of the transitions to grave matters feel somewhat unpracticed and unrehearsed prior, as if they rushed through this without giving it a moment's pause for reflection. With this many well known names included this surprisingly ended up being an incredibly generic, formulaic movie. I thought it would have had a little more merit than this--something like a lower budget "The Predator" where the action is heart racing and the villains are intimidating and frightening. Or at least give enough elements of amusement to let yourself go. The story itself wasn't the worst part and there are a few worked up scenes that stick out, it was just the overall execution that felt like it was done in passing and as if a share of the people involved didn't take it seriously beyond their contracts and obligations.

"The Devil's Tomb" can't always shake the cliche it walked into. The dialogue can go from preplanned sounding to made up on the spot. Stephanie Jacobson and Ray Winstone just can't escape their accents here with every other word distractingly echoing their homelands. Cuba Gooding Jr. feels like he fell asleep at the wheel and took on the personality of the rock he hit with little passion, conviction or believable command--not sure why he seems so tame and uninspired here compared to his past roles. His character is given flashbacks to a prior event that leads up to its close like bread crumbs for a roundabout message but lost its impact when it feels slipped in as an after thought.

Rating: 3/10

From Black to Red recommends instead: "Prince of Darkness." This John Carpenter film revolves around a secret artifact within a church and a team sent in to investigate.

Director: Jason Connery
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Valerie Cruz, Stephanie Jacobsen, Taryn Manning, Ron Perlman, Henry Rollins, Jason London, Bill Moseley
Link: IMDB

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