Satan’s minion is named Wesley: “The Devil’s Tomb”

October 23, 2012

Devils-tomb-movieOkay, today’s entry  in our October Spooktacular is The Devil’s Tomb. I should warn you at the outset that the devil does not appear in this movie. There is, however a kind of a tomb. A figurative one. No, The Devil’s TombYeah,  is the latest in what you’d call the “People in enclosed spaces see totally impossible hallucinations, but buy into them completely and follow them to their doom.” I’m working on shortening it.

In The Devil’s Tomb, Cuba Gooding Jr. (yes, the one who won an Oscar) plays Mack (yes, that’s his whole name), the leader of a maybe-mercenary team (the movie’s unclear on this point), who are directed by a shadowy CIA type named Elissa (Valerie Cruz) to take her into an underground bunker in the deserts of Iraq (or Afghanistan—one of the deserts where we’re fighting wars). She wants to rescue her father—some sort of hotshot scientist working on a super-secret project. The soldiers find the bunker easily enough, but, as you can imagine, things go sideways right off the bat.

You know when you’ve gone from winning an Oscar to acting alongside Henry Rollings you might want to re-examine your decision-making processes.

First off, their medic—Doc (*sigh* that’s her only name and she’s played by Taryn Manning, who has the angular head of a true Froot Loop)—starts to see hallucinations of her sister begging to be saved. Obviously she goes batshit crazy first. At the same time they come across a corpse-like dude who snarls at them in Latin (then helpfully translates what he just said) and spits acid at them. Now, at this point, I have to ask: has any underground bunker yielded anything good in a movie? I mean, has there ever been the movie in which the intrepid band of soldiers busts into the underground bunker and finds it filled with kittens or the Monty Python players or Elmore Leonard sipping margaritas at a bar. No, it’s pretty much always gonna be monsters or slow insanity or both.

Elmore Leonard: Something you will never find in a locked bunker in Iraq

Okay, so Doc is going crazy, and there’s a dude with pustules like radiation burn blisters all over his body. So far, so good. They find some research materials on something called The Gehenna Project—which is doubtlessly a program to create a supergrain of rice that will feed the world, or something equally altruistic—and a different guy on the team goes crazy.

[I must admit here that I simply can’t keep any of the male leads straight, since they’re all equally devoid of personality and acting talent. For clarity’s sake, I’m just going to refer to them all as Lunkhead and assign them each a number.]

Behold! Wesley the Demon! (Yeah, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue)

Okay, so the team finds an elevator and figures, well, what’s the smartest thing we could do right now? Hey, let’s descend deeper into this trashed, creepy bunker that has been the site of something called The Gehenna Project. And is populated by Latin-and-acid-spewing neo-zombies. Nothing can go wrong with that plan.

So the head downtown and decide, sensibly, to split up. One of them, Lunkhead #2, is hanging out alone, when he sees a beautiful naked woman (Holly Weber, last seen bouncing her be-thonged butt through Sugergator. Now, here is where movies like this just lose me. Lunk 2 immediately makes a beeline for her and they start making out, pausing long enough for Holly to transform into one of the neo-zombies and killing him. Okay, so if I was hanging out in a creepy bunker and saw a willing, nude Holly Weber, sure my first thought would be “Yahtzee!” But I gotta believe a quick follow up thought would be “Now wait a gosh-darned minute. How did Holly Weber get here? In a war zone? And where are her clothes? Say, this doesn’t jive at all…” Having Holly Weber throw herself at you—in a warzone, club, party, or cockfight—is just fucking improbable. But then the people in the movie haven’t done anything smart so far, so…

Holly Weber: Something else you will never find in a bunker in Iraq

Okay, so next the other female member of the team, Yoshi (Stephanie Jacobson) starts seeing a little girl who identifies herself as the child Yoshi conceived with her boyfriend, Lunkhead #3 and subsequently aborted. Congratulations, Steffie, you would have had an improbably Caucasian-looking child. Go figure. Anyway, Yoshi follows the kid and finds a possessed Doc, who appeals to her Sapphic longings, resulting in a totally-illogical (but nonetheless enjoyable) make out session between the women. The Doc stabs Yoshi in the back. Okay, I don’t get this. Yoshi’s haunted by the child she chose not to keep, because she and bf are both soldiers. But then she’s also deep in the closet and lusting after Doc. I mean, I guess it could happen, but in a movie like this you should just settle for one Deep, Dark Secret.

Stephanie Jacobson: Something you may find in a bunker in Iraq. You still shouldn’t go, though.

Next, what? Okay, Lunkhead #3 discovers Yoshi—now possessed and eerily calm—with her back sliced open, the flesh curled away. It should be a ghastly reveal, but the scene is ruined since 1) Lunkhead #3 is such a lousy actor the best he can muster under the circumstances is dim interest, as if he’s thinking: “Huh. Spine.” And 2) the effects are pretty awful. A note to the effects department: the human sinal column does not have a dorsal ridge like a Dimetradon.

Well, some other crap happens and pretty soon it’s revealed that Project Gehenna was all about attempts to contain a newly-discovered Nephlim—a fallen angel that God cast out of Heaven, but apparently the Almighty caught some rim and the thing ended up on Earth. So the good scientists at Project Gehenna froze it, but the damn thing can still screw with people’s heads. A couple more Lunkheads die, and then they find the Nephlim—inhabiting a dude named Wesley (Ron Perlman—yes that Ron Perlman). Wesley: Prince of Darkness taunts Mack a little to, uh, I’m not sure. Inhabit his body, I guess. He dredges up Mack’s own Dark Secret, which involves Ray Winstone (yes, that Ray Winstone), but is so sloppily-conceived, there’s not even any reason to it. Cuba blows up a gas pipe and knocks out Wesley, King of Lies, and allows Elissa to take the Nephlim into herself, while Mack runs and blows the bunker.

Okay, so yeah, this movie sucks. Do I have to belabor the point? Hell, even Cuba went through this thing acting in exactly modes: bored indifference, and minor irritation. Jacobson is usually an oasis in any crap. I mean, she’s a hot, tough Asian chick, and on top of that she’s got an Australian accent. Can you ask for anything more? Perhaps, but now you’re just getting greedy. But she’s wasted here in a totally under-written and preposterous role which also demands she eschew her native accent. Why would any director do that? Any heterosexual male knows that chicks are even cuter with accents.

That’s right. She manages to get even cuter when she speaks.

Finally, just once I’d like to see a movie in which the characters recognize that the hallucinations tempting them are totally impossible. “Dad? But you’re dead! How can you be on this haunted starship? You can’t, so…I’m just gonna walk the other way.”

No tombs, no devils. What we did learn, though:

* Pale, fat, paunchy dudes who barf battery acid are really not the most terrifying of monsters.

* Fallen angels are radioactive, and should be frozen immediately.

* The Bringer of Pestilence and Despair is named Wesley.

* Nothing good can come from a nude Holly Weber.

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