FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Oct 8, 2009

Day 8: "Death is a spectacle."

Why do I like Shannyn Sossamon so much? She's one of those actors who, when I see her name attached to a film, I think "Oooh! Yes, I'll watch that." (see also: Ed Harris). I don't get it. She's not a particularly good actress- she tends to deliver every line as if she's just done a shot of heroin. She hasn't been in any films I love, or even like a whole bunch. So what is it? Is it just because I think she's super duper adorable in some magical kinda-scuzzy elfin way? That's probably it...eh, these things happen. In the end, all it means is that I watch some movies I probably wouldn't otherwise check out, like Catacombs (2007).

Sossamon stars as Victoria, a young lady who's apparently got some "nerve issues" or some such. She heads to Paris at the suggestion of her sister Carolyn (Alecia Moore- yes, that's "Pink" to you), who's there to study...something at the Sorbonne. Though Victoria begs off doing much because of a headache, Carolyn insists they spend an exhausting day doing French-type stuff like scooter-riding. They shop, and then Carolyn drags her sister to a rave in the Catacombs beneath the streets.

Yes, a rave in the catacombs. Any old excuse to get the kids down there, I guess...I mean, the same rave-gone-wrong idea worked in House of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead 5, right?

Anyway, once they're all down there, Carolyn and her French friends regale Victoria with the legend of The Cult of the Black Virgin...apparently, some Satanic cult is lurking in the catacombs, and they've managed to create their own Antichrist by raising an incest rape baby in darkness and feeding him raw meat. Now he wears a goat's head for a mask and stalks the tunnels, hacking up unlucky wanderers of the depths. But...that's totally just a legend, so we don't have to worry about that in Catacombs.

Just kidding! Later on, the sisters have separated themselves from the pack and as they bicker, Goat Head pops out and puts the blade to Carolyn...so you know what that means.


Goat Head grunts incessantly and chases Victoria around for a while, but she manages to elude him. Unfortunately, she's completely lost and wanders around for the next 35 minutes, looking for an exit. Just so you know, I don't mean 35 minutes in the world of the movie...I mean 35 minutes of the movie's run time. She walks around. And looks. And walks around. And looks. For 35 minutes.

She meets up with a fellow Lostie named Henri, but Victoria leaves him behind when he falls into a shaft and breaks his leg. She wanders around some more, then maybe meets up with Goat Head again, and then in its last ten minutes Catacombs pulls a fast one and kicks you in the nuts, be they metaphorical or for reals. Even Shannyn Sossamon was not amused.

If you were sitting here with me right now and you asked my opinion of Catacombs, I'd wiggle my hand up and down, scrunch up my face, and say "Mnehhhhhhh" in a whiny voice...or, in keeping with the film's Paris setting, I'd give it a "comme ci, comme ca". The direction was, at times, horrendously irritating; co-directors (and co-writers) Tomm Coker and David Elliot employed liberal use of the epilepsy-cam to the point where it was frequently difficult to discern what was going on. I don't know who started the frenetic jump cutting / strobe lighting / fucking with film speed epidemic that's STILL plaguing horror film directors, but the trend has really got to stop. None of those bells and whistles make the film any scarier.

The plot is paper-thin, and the resolution would have been bolstered by some character development earlier on; perhaps if we'd spent some more time learning about Victoria and Carolyn, the events that stem from their contemptuous relationship might have had more impact. Instead, we watch Victoria walk around in the dark for half an hour, but the film never feels particularly frightening or tense.

Oh well. In the end, all it means is that I watched a movie I probably wouldn't otherwise have checked out. Damn you, Shannyn Sossamon!

8 comments:

thomwade said...

that 35 minutes would have annoyed me if I was not busy having an epileptic fit on the floor. But I was preoccupied at that point by said epileptic fit.

Smogo said...

I don't know who started the frenetic jump cutting / strobe lighting / fucking with film speed epidemic

Was it James Wan with Saw?

I really like the original Saw, because it's got a great storyline and some really creepy moments, but I've always felt that if a veteran horror director had made it (Argento on form, say), then all the kill scenes would've been much better: long, drawn-out, painful, scary; rather than fast, music video-ish, stupid, annoying.

goblin said...

I saw this movie on TV a couple of months ago and I wholeheartedly agree with your review. The middle section was a drag and I didn't buy the ending at all.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the "frenetic jump cutting / strobe lighting / fucking with film speed" comment. I never understood why it has been so...er...liberally used in horror movies. If the point of horror movies is to enjoy suspense, terror, and fright in a storyline, then why are these directors using filming techniques that tie-into music videos? Taste aside, one doesn't make music videos to scare you (watching "Thriller" at age 10, duly noted). I always felt that horror movies were scarier when perspectives matched real life and the urge to stylize was left at home.

Stacie Ponder said...

Smogo, you're probably right RE: Wan/Saw. My initial impulse was to cite him, but I wasn't 100% sure. I just wish horror directors would go back to directing horror films, and stop making 90-minute horror-themed music videos. *these damn kids!*

goblin, I thought the ending COULD have been interesting, had it not actually been the *end* of the film, but the beginning of the third act. I mean, what are we supposed to think happened after the credits rolled, you know? There might have been an interesting character in there somewhere...or else I'm just giving it the benefit of the doubt for some reason.

andrew said...

Aww, Shannyn Sossamon! She is pretty cool and does get herself into some rediculously bad movies. However, there is no denying that Wristcutters: A Love Story is a damn fine flick. Sossamon, Patrick Fugit, and Tom Waits(!) God, I love that movie.

Anonymous said...

What struck me more as odd was how some of the 'AntiChrist' flashbacks had some scenes that reminded me of some other horror movie. I think I saw the emaciated doctor from "House of 1000 Corpses"...

Bernie

Linus said...

Just to present an opposing view, I watched this movie with minimal expectations (closing Blockbuster store = cheapo romp in the Previously Viewed section), and was pleasantly surprised.

The long wandery section isn't going to work for everyone, but it did work for me: I was taken with the way the flashlight lit the dark spaces, and found the come-and-go soundtrack very creepy. Those long silences kept my attention, and my imagination filled the empty spaces.

Then again, I loved Eyes Wide Shut, so you can make fun of me if you like.

I've been to the Catacombs, which I completely recommend if you find yourself in Paris with a few hours to kill, and they did a good job of reproducing them.

This wasn't a game-changing film, but I found it scary and tense, very differently put together than the usual running screaming splatter story, and fun to watch.