Directed by Victor Garcia
Distributed by IFC Midnight
“So close, yet so far away.” This quote can (and has) applied to so many situations in life: a missed kick to win the Super Bowl, a dodged punch that would have silenced that loud jerk at the bar, or that hot chick in high school who blew you off on prom night… okay, that last one stung just a LITTLE too much. Anyway, no truer words could be issued to describe Victor Garcia’s possession pic The Damned, which, after starting in a strong fashion, ran out of gas while running back the kickoff and fell stone-cold dead on the 5-yard line.
Garcia, who helmed that utterly atrocious Pinhead spin-off (or was it a sequel or a remake?) from 2014, Hellraiser: Revelations, has returned for this “so close” demonic tenancy film where a modest cast meets a treacherous backdrop, compounded by an infernal opponent and finally suffering the largest cinematic down throw: assembly line scares. While the aforementioned offense of cookie-cutter frights isn’t necessarily a nail in any movie’s coffin, it just depresses me to see a film with so much promise travel down this already over-beaten path.
Peter Facinelli plays David, a father to Jill (Nathalia Ramos), and things begin with his trip to scenic (and flooded) Colombia, where he’s traveled to pick her up and whisk her (and a cast of many) off to the wedding between himself and his new bride-to-be, Lauren (Sophia Myles.) Jill is still not entirely enthusiastic about Dad’s latest squeeze, considering it was a fairly quick turnaround after the death of his first wife.
Along for the ride are Aunt Gina (Carolina Guerra), a budding journalist, and her trusty cameraman, Ramon (Sebastian Martinez). The five hit the muddy road as the rains pour down upon their little automobile with the force of a cow peeing on a flat rock. After being pulled over and warned by a cautious policeman, who implores the group not to travel any further into town due to the flooding, the wedding party happily continue on their way at the behest of Aunt Julia, who claims to know a way around the flooded roads (because that always works out marvelously).
Well, not before long a rogue mudslide wipes out the party vehicle and leaves our crew scrambling for cover in the deluge, and that cover comes in a dilapidated inn, run by a less-than-earnest host named Felipe (Gustavo Angarita). With the language barrier already at a massive fracture, it’s easily observed that Felipe doesn’t want this group under his roof, and when two of our gang stroll off and discover a young girl named Ana Maria (Julieta Salazar), who’s been locked in a dirty, cockroach infested makeshift dungeon down in the basement, we as the viewer begin to get the feeling that something contemptible is at hand.
It turns out that not all is what it seems: Sweet little Ana Maria is a vessel for the man downstairs, and old cantankerous Felipe has had protective intentions all along, keeping the youth subjugated so no further innocents would be caught up in the path of malevolence. What follows is a multitude of semi-spooky surprises: nothing terribly unsettling, but effective in some instances. The devilish resident passes to whoever was the one to end the life of the unlucky soul that was taken hostage previously, and the remainder of the film (unfortunately) delves into the whole “cat and mouse chase” between the good and the bad. It’s been done to death, and this film is no exception, regrettably. The performances by the cast and the overall mood don’t suffer greatly due to the predictable structure, but it sure would have been nice to have seen the film break free of the constraints that held it back.
2 1/2 out of 5