Catacombs (US - DVD R1)
Bland horror films set in France make Gabe appriciate his "Freedom Fries"...
Meek young Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) takes a trip to Paris to visit her older sister (Alecia Moore, a.k.a. Pink). Immediately she’s thrust into a creepy atmosphere and introduced to a rude assortment of Paris natives. That first night she’s dragged to a rave in the ‘Catacombs’, a two-hundred mile labyrinth of human remains beneath the city’s streets. After wondering away from her sister’s friends, Victoria meets with a behemoth killer and finds herself lost and alone after running away.
Besides being a movie about jerks and their jerky ways, Catacombs is also about…well it’s really just a movie about jerks. Apparently everyone in Paris, from the airport cops, to the party kids, to the Americans visitors and monstrous killers are jerks. But they’re jerks that like to party, so cool, right? Yeah, party! Woooo!
Actually, movie raves are usually boring, and this one is no exception. The only difference is that these drunken partygoers consistently spout dark and spooky factoids about Paris, so then it’s boring and awkward. Oh, and full of jerks. There’s something to be said for wanting to see the pretty twenty-somethings get sliced and diced, but I hated these people so much I didn’t even care about watching them get theirs—I just wanted the movie to be over so I didn’t have to spend any time with them anymore.
But male writer/directors Tomm Coker and David Elliot really know how to write female characters. They really get into their feminine minds and write the most natural dialogue possible. While being forced to shop for the rad rave, Victoria’s bitch sister slaps us with this perfectly natural gem:
“(Paris) is the most beautiful city in the world. It’s the city of lights, romance, art, architecture, beauty… it’s hard to image it all sits on top of the largest mass grave in history. Come on, we can’t go to a party without new shoes!”
Because that’s exactly how people talk. This is an awful script from top to bottom. Bad story, bad dialogue, clichés aplenty, and another last act twist. M. Night Shyamalan, what have you wrought?
There’s some decent gore and set design, but our directors shoot and cut the film like an obnoxious, made for YouTube music video. Catacombs is produced by the same folks that brought us the Saw films, and it shows, only instead of looking stylish it looks like a low budget saw fan film. It’s just too much—too much strobe, too much cutting, to much movement, and too much focus on looking ‘cool’. It’s a mess. What do work are the still shots, which are often lit only by an actor held flashlights.
Fortunately the majority of the jerks disappear at the half way point, and we’re left with a natural and surprising performance from Shannyn Sossamon. I’ve always been impressed by Sossamon, but here she manages Jamie Lee Curtis levels of bad horror movie made good performance. It doesn’t hurt that there isn’t very much dialogue after the rest of the cast disappears, but this really is a mini-tour de force performance.
Catacombs’ video quality doesn’t help the whole ‘looks like a YouTube video’ thing. The DVD is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. Come on now Lionsgate, you’ve embraced Blu-ray technology but you can’t release a two million dollar 2007 release in anamorphic widescreen? This disc looks like a bootleg download. The edges are blocky, the colours mix in a choppy and uneven fashion, combing and interlacing effects are everywhere, and details are fuzzy. Worst of all for our directors who are so proud of their lighting work, the blacks aren’t particularly black, and the bright whites flair out much more then I assume they were planning.
No anamorphic video, but we are given a decent 5.1 surround mix. The whole track is a little on the quiet side, but the design adds a bit of production value to a lacking low-budgeter. The sound effects are obviously canned, and more or less unnatural, but given the film’s overdone style it isn’t out of place. The surround and stereo channels are pretty lively, and there are a few standout moments, like an under water shot towards the end of the film. The soundtrack sounds full and bassy, though some of the on-screen played techno and rock additions are a little softer then the more score-like stuff.
The writer/director’s commentary track isn’t bad, but is full of commentary clichés. Every person and thing on an off screen is the ‘unsung hero’ of the production. Shannyn Sossamon is the unsung hero of the film. The guy that did the voice of the ‘monster’ is the unsung hero of the film. That flashlight is the unsung hero of the film. Coker and Elliot come across as nice guys, and offer some decent advice for would-be filmmakers.
‘Inside the Catacombs’ is clip heavy making-of featurette. As expected, it’s another EPK in disguise where the producers, directors, and lead actors tell us basic stuff about the story, the real life background (apparently there’s some realism in the plot), and everyone pats backs thoroughly. I actually didn’t realize that Alecia Moore was Pink while watching the film (she’s not bad), but that’s more or less all I learned from the six and a half minute featurette (and I could’ve learned that from the commentary).
The storyboard gallery is pretty impressive (Tomm Coker comes from a comic book background). The gallery isn’t interactive, it’s a slideshow, but Coker’s commentary is a nice addition. Factually these storyboards are often more interesting then the shots that made the film. The first gallery lasts about eight minutes, the deleted scenes gallery (which is filled with fantastic and finished comic book art) lasts a minute twenty, the guest artist boards run two twenty, ‘Meet the Goatman’ runs just over three minutes, set design illustrations total almost six minutes, effects boards (in colour) last two minutes, and the re-shoot boards finish the section out at six minutes.
‘The Making of Blue Butterfly’ is a sort of music video cum making of song featurette about the Violet UK song that closes out the film. The Japanese subtitled feature runs about six minutes and is followed by a collection of Lionsgate trailers.
Catacombs is a bland and un-scary movie about irredeemably mean spirited characters. Besides a few moments of inspired cinematography, the only thing it really has going for it is a great performance from Shannyn Sossamon, and I only recommend it to the actress’ biggest fans. The disc looks terrible, like a rough-cut illegal download, but it sounds pretty good and has a friendly commentary from the film’s two writer/directors.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 19th February 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Director Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Storyboards, Making of Music Video, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Elliot, Tomm Coker
Cast: Shannyn Sossamon, Alecia "Pink" Moore, Alecia Moore
Length: 90 minutes
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