Lionsgate // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 19th, 2008
Below the city of lights exists a world of darkness.
From the producers of Saw comes this horror tale of a girl running around dark tunnels for 90 minutes.
Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) has embarked on her first trip to Paris, to meet her spunky sister Carolyn (Alecia Moore a.k.a. Pink) and take a gulp of a brand new culture. A quiet, insecure girl, Victoria is not prepared for the hyper-kinetic, hard-partying subculture that Carolyn is intent on introducing her to.
The initiation into edgy Paris nightlife begins right away, when the two sisters head to a literally underground party, held outside of the authorities' reach within the city's vast maze of ancient catacombs.
But what starts out as a typical E-fueled rave turns into a nightmare when Victoria finds herself trapped in the caverns and being hunted by a legendary goat-faced monster said to hunt hapless 20-somethings after dark.
What begins with a sinister setting and a promising big bad quickly devolves into a non-stop chase sequence that is nowhere near as exciting as it sounds. Catacombs has a smattering of neat moments, but as a whole, I'd suggest you skip this one.
The biggest problem facing Catacombs is that it simply doesn't feel like there's enough material here for a feature-length film. This is how the thing rolls out: the sisters meet, chat a bit, head to the party, chat some more, one of the guys tells the story of the goat-man (one of few the high points of the film), Victoria gets lost, she starts running around the tunnels and is occasionally chased by the monster and then a twist ending kicks in (more on that in a bit). Unfortunately, the "lost and chased by a monster" bit makes up the bulk of the runtime and I submit that it won't be long before you grow exceptionally bored. Seriously, all she does is scurry through the catacombs with her flashlight. The script attempts to break up the tedium by introducing another character, but soon enough this guy joins in the wandering and we're back to square one.
Try as they might with flashy camera angles, stylistic maneuvering, and loud sound cues, directors Tomm Coker and David Elliot come up short in their attempts to massage suspense and terror from these chase sequences. As cool as the caverns are as a setting at first blush, the overuse of this milieu leads to the eventual tedium of watching the same poorly-lit, stone walls over and over and over.
Sossamon and Moore are the two headlining actors, but this film is all Sossamon and I feel for her. Aside from the uninspired twist finale, her performance is comprised solely of gasping and looking worried and furrowing her brow and screaming and gazing worriedly at her flickering flashlight.
One of the few things that did work for me was the back story on the goat-man. It's bloody, weird, disturbing and involves Satan-worshipping death cultists living underground and trying to create the Antichrist through verbal abuse and a forced diet of raw chicken-flesh. Fantastic! Too bad the ending dilutes the coolness of the back story, and winds down with a deeply unsatisfying denouement and twist.
The video transfer is less-than-good. Seeing 95 percent of the film takes place in the near pitch-dark, a clean, grain-free transfer is a must, but the picture quality struggles mightily during these sequences. Poor resolution and uneven dark tones are a consistent distraction. Worse, the transfer is non-anamorphic. You have a choice of a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mix. Extras: a commentary by the directors, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a brief making-of spot for the music video and storyboard gallery.
Lots of running and wheezing and little else makes Catacombs a chore.
Here are batteries for your flashlights. Keep wandering.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making-of Featurette
* Music Video Documentary