Shannyn Sossamon - Victoria
Alecia "P!nk" Moore - Carolyn
Emil Hostina - Henry
Mihai Stanescu - Jean Michele
Cabral Ibacka - Hugo
Radu Andrei Micu - Nico
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 92 Minutes
An American girl, with massive anxiety issues, named Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) is invited to Paris, France by her party-centric sister, Carolyn (Alecia "P!nk" Moore) to hang out for a bit. Instead of going to the Eiffel Tower or Jim Morrison's grave, Carolyn takes Victoria to the infamous Catacombs - a massive labyrinth underground that has housed about seven million French corpses for centuries. Apparently, the Catacombs is the location for an illegal rave that involves drinking, drugs, sex, and other things people who don't know better do.
As the rave rages on, a guy named Jean Michele (Mihai Stanescu) slips a drug into a cup of absinthe, which Victoria drinks. On this hallucinatory drink, she hears Jean Michele talk about some myth about an inbred goat headed killer who was raised by Satanists and lives in the Catacombs, killing those who are trapped inside. Scared by the story, and tired of being pressured into partying with Carolyn and her friends, Victoria leaves the group and gets lost in the Catacombs. After Carolyn manages to find her and tries to lead Victoria back, a goat headed killer murders Carolyn and chases after Victoria. After hours of running and screaming for help, Victoria must find the exit before more tragedy strikes.
I have three words for CATACOMBS:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
- The setting. CATACOMBS is a terrible film. But the use of the Catacombs as the location of the movie is pretty brilliant and actually effective. The mood and atmosphere is very claustrophobic, dark, bleak, and confusing due to the maze the characters are trapped inside of. The story of the Catacombs itself, with the seven million corpses buried there, is also a true story - which makes the setting more creepy. I do wish they would have explored that idea more within the narrative, but I'll get to that [and much more] soon enough. But at least the location was perfect for a horror film.
- The acting. The screenplay is awful for CATACOMBS, but I have to give some credit to the actors for trying to make the most of the nothing they were given to do or develop. Shannyn Sossomon did what she could as main girl, Victoria. While her character was annoying and whiny, at least Sossomon was convincing and did what she was directed to do. She's a decent actress and it sucks that she's usually in really bad films. At least this performance is better than the one she did in ONE MISSED CALL. She was actually awake here.
The other main actress is Alecia Moore, otherwise known as pop/rock singer, P!nk. She was actually the best actress in the film since she had to be a bitch, which is usually the funnest role. I totally bought her act and wish she were in the film more. The other actors, like Emil Hostina as Henry and Mihai Stanescu as Jean Michele, did the best with what they were given in the script. It wasn't a terrible cast at all. It's just that they didn't have good enough material to work with and make the audience care for their characters.
- The myth. The story about the goat headed killer that's believed to be the Antichrist was probably the most interesting part of the narrative. The whole inbred deal is cliche, but the way the scene was shot and edited really enhanced it from being beyond generic. It's a shame not much was done with this killer, or this subplot. But I wanted to know more and see what became of this killer. So that was a plus.
- The direction. I don't know what was worse in CATACOMBS: the screenplay or the direction. The visuals had a ton of potential by the team of Tomm Coker and David Elliot. There was some nice style and interesting shots that worked. But then you get the overwhelming amount of handheld shaky cam that almost gave me a seizure, especially during the rave scenes with the strobe lights and laser show. Plus all the suspense and tension is lost when you have repetitive chase scenes [especially when the camera is doing close ups instead of medium-to-long shots to introduce composition and important framing that could enhance tension by giving us a background of what's going on] and moments where Victoria just walks around and finds nothing, which slows down the pace to the point of dragging. There was a ton of potential here that could have really saved the film. But the constantly headache of shaky cam, and visual sequences of absolute nothing, ruin the experience of enjoying CATACOMBS.
- The story and characters. God, where do I start? Let's talk about the characters first. What a bunch of annoying people who deserved to die sooner than they actually did. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is likeable in this film. Victoria seems to have some sort of mental issues, due to popping 20 pills at one time, and being afraid to do anything remotely fun or interesting. The problem is that we never figure out what her deal is. Did something traumatic happen in her past? What issues does she have, period? We never know and it's never explored. This obviously plays into the twist ending, which I would love to spoil, but I won't out of respect. I'll get into that twist in a bit.
As for Carolyn, she's nothing more than a mean, party-loving bitch who enjoys scaring people. Nothing more, nothing less. She enjoys calling her sister Victoria a "bitch" and the c-word, as if the words are terms of endearment. For sisters, these two couldn't be more different and less connected. College dorm roommates seem closer than these two sisters do. In fact, you'd think the two were enemies? Yet, there's no backstory or even expository dialogue that lets us in on their real relationship with each other. Carolyn seems to put Victoria down every chance she gets, saying her tough love is to "help" Victoria be less anxious and afraid. But she just comes across as a bully rather than a loving sister. If their relationship had been established, it would have been more effective. It doesn't surprise me that Victoria barely reacts when Carolyn is murdered. I barely know the lady either.
The other characters are just there as filler. The Henry character appears for the sole reason to give Victoria someone to interact with during her struggle to escape the Catacombs. But he's unlikeable due to his sexual perversion and excitement about getting drunk over finding a way out. Jean Michele and the others are just there to give Carolyn some friends and tell the audience the myth about the goat head killer - who barely makes an appearance in the film. These people aren't even stereotypes, which is a dimension above being faceless [which these characters are].
Speaking of the lack of the killer, how is that a good decision in a horror movie? This is more frustrating because CATACOMBS is a slasher film, which relies on a cat-and-mouse chase to create suspense and tension. But nope, the killer appears for maybe ten minutes at most in the 92-minute film. What the hell? Why even bother then? Why have so many pointless and annoying characters if someone isn't going to murder them within the frame of the story? Is watching the lead girl run around screaming and looking for an exit more entertaining, tense, and suspenseful than a dude [wearing a goat head mask] chasing after people and slicing their throats open? I think not!
I didn't understand the point of this film. You have a creepy location. You have an interesting killer. You have annoying characters people will want to see brutally destroyed. All the ingredients are there, yet no one knew what to do with any of them. Honestly the way the narrative is as stands, this doesn't warrant enough material for a feature. I think if CATACOMBS was a half-hour short, it would have been majorly effective. Or if the need for a feature was there, actually have the killer show up in your film and scare characters and the audience. Or better yet, why not just do a ghost story or even zombies? Those sub-genres would fit in well with the film's setting. This story did nothing for me.
As for the twist ending, you see it coming a mile away. But it's the lesser problem this film has. At least I understand why it ends the way it does. It's getting there that's the confusing and frustrating part.
- The sound design. While there is sometimes an eerie score that plays time to time, a lot of the tension is ruined due to some really loud techno song that drowns out dialogue and mood. There were several moments where music would play during a scene and just ruin it for me. I felt that if there was just ambient sound, it would have worked a lot better. It's as if the directors felt that for the film to be considered cool, there had to be techno-dance music or something during scenes that wanted to be intense. It distracted rather than helped, in my opinion.
THE FINAL HOWL