Now available on DVD
Shannyn Sossamon as Victoria
Pink as Carolyn
Emil Hostina as Henry
Sandi Dragoi as Liaves
Mihai Stanescu as Jean Michele
Directed by Tomm Coker, David Elliot
From the moment that “Catacombs” began, with a voice-over by lead actress Shannyn Sossamon as her character vacuously comments about the romantic reputation of Paris and the ironic fact that so much death lies in the catacombs beneath its glittering surface, I slumped in my seat and had to think to myself “Shit, how am I gonna get through this one?” I mean, damn â this movie wasn’t even giving me a chance to not hate it! But dear reader, until I watched “Catacombs” in its entirety, I didn’t really know what hate was. This movie was almost enough to send this easygoing reviewer into anger management.
In “Catacombs,” Sossamon plays Victoria, a mousey type who is heading to Paris after receiving a postcard from her older sister Caroline (played by Alecia Moore â aka pop star Pink) inviting her to join her there. Caroline is the worldlier, more confident of the two sisters and she intends to force the nervous Victoria to finally live a little. But while the intention is to convince us that the vivacious Caroline is the life of the party because she knows how to be carefree and have a good time (unlike the repressed Victoria), the makers of Catacombs have fatally confused cool with obnoxious. Caroline and her crew of friends manage to make the jerks of “Cloverfield” look like an engaging lot and that’s no small accomplishment.
Despite Victoria’s reluctance to let loose, Caroline brings Victoria to a rave set in the series of ghoulish catacombs that run under the streets of Paris. Once there, Caroline and co. do their irritating best to prod Victoria into getting with the program and lightening up. Because, apparently, the world will stop spinning if this one girl isn’t having the same good time that everyone else is. But it proves hard for the already nervous Victoria to throw caution to the wind after Caroline’s friend (and the mastermind behind these illicit festivities), Jean Michele (Mihaui Standescu), shares a grisly yarn with her about a group of Satan worshippers who long ago purposely raised a boy deep in these isolated tunnels to be the embodiment of the Anti-Christ on Earth (a feat we’re told was accomplished by forcing the kid to wear a goat head-mask and feeding him nothing but raw meat â I guess forging an Anti-Christ isn’t what you’d call an exact science) and who now â full-grown, crazy, and dumb as a brick â continues to roam these skull-lined caverns to this day. Of course, some might say that if the Anti-Christ has nothing more to do than to skulk through a series of underground tunnels wearing a goat mask maybe he isn’t much of an Anti-Christ. I mean, really â it’s kind of a waste of Pure Evil, isn’t it? But hey, this is all just a tall tale, right? All I can say is that you’ll have to keep watching Catacombs to find out. And if you’re still awake and not in a cata-coma by then, the answers may surprise you!
Swayed by Michele’s influence, Victoria consents to consume some absinthe but still isn’t comfortable enough to join the others when they take a communal dip in an underground pool. Caroline naturally gets huffy about her sister’s uptight refusal to jump in with both feet (“For once could you try not to be the lamest person in the room?”) and has to assist her wet-rag of a sister as Victoria tries to find her way back to the rave. But as fate would have it, the Anti-Christ Goat-Head-Dude shows up to do what Anti-Christ Goat-Head-Dudes do best â stomp the living shit out of people. Once separated from her sister after their run-in with ACGHD, Victoria has to find her own way out of the catacombs while eluding a soulless killer who knows these tunnels like the back of his hell-spawned hand. Will Victoria ever emerge from the dark depths of these catacombs? More importantly, will she ever find it in herself to leave her pills behind and party?
Well, as “Catacombs” begins with Victoria narrating the night’s events after the fact, we have to immediately say “yes” on the former. But unfortunately, the fact that we know she lives to tell the tale of her ordeal only serves to make her prolonged journey through the catacombs as she spends some time evading the killer (cue shaky-cam and strobing lights) but mostly just wandering around looking for an exit seem incredibly pointless. With Victoria’s survival guaranteed, it’s inexcusable for “Catacombs’ writing/directing team of David Elliot and Tomm Coker to devote a full forty-five minutes (the entire second half of the film) on the matter of “will Victoria get out?”. Of course, the “will she find it in herself to party?” issue does remain on the table until the very end. So really, there are some things that we have to keep watching “Catacombs” to find out! And as it turns out, Elliot and Coker have a surprise ending waiting for viewers. However, while some movies end with a twist that compels an immediate second viewing to re-watch the film in a new context, for all but the most masochistic that isn’t the case with “Catacombs.”
As this concluding twist is all “Catacombs” has going for it, I won’t spoil it (although if you watch the movie, I guarantee you’ll wish I had). But Elliot and Coker would’ve had to fashion their film into a sharper character study for their ending to have a real impact. And it’s impossible to miss the irony that a movie whose story hinges on the therapeutic value of fear can’t even deliver a single scare.