Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Ron Perlman, Ray Winstone, Taryn Manning, Henry Rollins, Valerie Cruz, Franky G, Bill Moseley, Zack Ward, Jason London, Bill Moseley
Directed by Jason Connery
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Know that old saying about how the greatest trick the devil ever played on mankind was convincing us he doesn’t exist? Horror movies have taught us that the great deceiver knows quite a few other tricks. Watching The Devil’s Tomb left me wishing the devil would learn a few new tricks. Hell, the evil at work here isn’t even the devil, but a Nephilim – a fallen angel, described as “all four horseman rolled into one.” Even “all four horseman rolled into one” merely resorts to the same old devlish trickery.
The Devil’s Tomb is a prime example of a promising premise done in as cliché a manner as possible. Something evil has been unearthed in an underground chamber, an evil that very much wants to make it to the surface but needs a “skin suit” in order to do so. A paramilitary unit assists a CIA operative to rescue her father/scientist from this underground research bunker located somewhere beneath a Middle Eastern desert war zone.
So many intriguing avenues they could have gone down; instead we’re treated to the standard array of manipulative hallucinations, body jumping, possessed people covered in disfiguring boils muttering tired platitudes about one’s faith, blood puking, and a lesbian seduction that feels completely out of place. We learn only enough about these soldiers to give credence to whatever means the demonic force sets about to get at them. A horny soldier is seduced by the centerfold from his nudie magazine suddenly appearing before him, a female soldier is taunted by a demonic version of her dead child: so very cliché.
The first half set-up proves intriguing enough that I couldn’t help but feel a degree of frustration with how the script falls back on such tired horror movie conventions. Soldiers find the body of a Nephilim that looks like an extraterrestrial frozen in a block of ice yet the best they can muster to do with this is recycle elements of Event Horizon and countless other horror movies.
Only the solid cast (with one exception) and briskly paced direction of actor turned freshman director Jason Connery (son of Sean) keeps this formulaic film afloat. I realize describing a film as scareless yet serviceable, by-the-numbers yet watchable doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement – it’s not. I never found The Devil’s Tomb to be a chore or a bore to sit through, so that has to count for something.
That one cast exception is Henry Rollins. He has been cast way against type as a delirious priest. Really now? Henry Rollins cast as a priest? Rollins might have pulled it off if he hadn’t just overacted the part in the worst way possible.
Also cast against type: Taryn Manning, usually portraying streetwise tough chicks in movies like Hustle & Flow, here in the role of a God-fearing medic. At least she is for about 20-minutes before becoming the first to fall victim to the evil presence. From then on she’ll pop up periodically impersonating Linda Blair from The Exorcist.
Cuba Gooding Jr. leads the platoon as a stoic, non-believing soldier suffering from a major case of guilt stemming from the events of a series of very brief flashbacks about a combat incident involving a cameoing Ray Winstone (The Departed) we’re treated to throughout the film. I like to think that look on his face of a man with a troubled conscience is not so much Cuba Gooding Jr. acting as much as it is him reflecting upon the poor script choices he’s made since winning the Oscar for Jerry Maguire that now sees his career stuck in the same direct-to-DVD doldrums as Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, and Val Kilmer.
Hellboy himself makes an appearance at the beginning and end. Ron Perlman is again playing a hellish character, albeit this time playing for the other team. His and Cuba Gooding Jr.’s performances serve as pretty good metaphors for the film as a whole: professional, adequate, yet noticeably uninspired.
Also on the uninspired side of the fence are the DVD’s special features which are about as stamped out as you can get. There’s a commentary, a fifteen minute making-of, some outtakes and alternate scenes. Just like the movie … they’re not bad, but you’ll forget about them seconds after they’re over.
The Devil’s Tomb makes for passable entertainment assuming you aren’t completely put off by the predictable plot machinations. Just don’t be surprised if you find this tomb a bit empty.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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