Lionsgate // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 14th, 2008
Dare to believe.
When they are kicked out of their apartment for excessive partying, five college students take up residence in an abandoned dorm of a theological institute.
Like other no-cost housing, this bit of real estate comes with a hinky history. A few of the young theologians once tried to summon a demon -- all too well, it seems. Four of them committed suicide that very night, and the fifth was shunned by polite society when he ranted on about the supernatural forces.
Our current crop of co-eds laugh this off -- "Urban legend!" they scoff -- and since there's no nearby graveyard for them to go and whistle in, they do the next best thing: They hold a séance and conjure up their own demon. Take that, dead theologians!
Well, "take that, college kids," actually. As so often happens when invoking evil in a deserted place, the forces of darkness pop in, and naturally, they're up to no good. Soon, our beleaguered boys and girls are seeing specters, hearing murmurs, and offing themselves in creative and nauseating ways, with a little help from these fiends.
Have these past-their-prime teens actually stumbled upon The Devil's Curse? Or is there more secular mayhem afoot here?
Good luck trying to find answers. The Devil's Curse has a fair share of virtues, but cohesive storytelling is not among them.
Writer Alex Wakeford and director Toni Harman seemed to have been going for something a little deeper than the average haunted house movie. Apparently, they were working toward something resembling religious allegory.
The film begins with a text about the origins of the Nicene Creed, the prayer that begins, "I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and all that is Seen and Unseen," with the word unseen suspended on the screen for a bit while ominous music plays under it. All this is clearly supposed to be pertinent to what follows; the original title of the film was "Credo."
Most of the film takes place at the abandoned dorm of the theological institute, which is called "Eden." Pentangles, crosses, and other such symbols abound, and of course, there's all sorts of talk about demons and devils and curses and the like.
Unfortunately, there's no clear through-line here. Much time is spent watching the characters try to find their way out of the huge dormitory after the lights have gone out; there are twists and turns and all sorts of dead ends. However, we haven't seen enough of the building to know what it actually looks like, so here we just have a bunch of characters trying to navigate in the dark. Characters are either talking to spirits or hallucinating, we're never sure which. We also don't know why all this is happening, and there's one of those annoying "surprise endings" that invalidates everything that went before.
On the plus side, The Devil's Curse is creepy. It has more than its share of "Boo!" moments, and it trades in suspense rather than gore, a pleasant change from the usual low-budget horror offerings. While the film doesn't really pay off, its scary scenes are really very well done.
The disc looks alright, though much of it is shot in low light on a low budget. Audio is very good, important here, because many of the scares are audio-based.
Besides a trailer (and the usual assortment of Lionsgate previews), there's a 25-minute "behind-the-scenes" featurette, "The Five Essentials of a Horror Movie." Your interest in this will be in direct proportion to your interest in the film. Some of the featurette is quite entertaining, and some of it is just silly junk.
Suspenseful yet incoherent, The Devil's Curse is barely squeaking by here with a Not Guilty. Good for a rental on a cold, dark night.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "The Five Essentials of a Horror Movie"