Sunday, July 20, 2014

VODebut (and in theaters soon): Victor Garcia's creep-fest/supernatural thriller, THE DAMNED

If, when you set out to make a genre movie -- a supernatural thriller, say -- you decide to "borrow" some themes and tropes (after all, there's little these days that has not already been done), make sure you're borrowing the good ones. In their new movie, THE DAMNED, screenwriter Richard D'Ovidio and director Victor Garcia have stolen from some genre greats -- The Hidden, for one -- and come up with a surprisingly deft film that begins as a kind of atmospheric creep-fest that, once the various levers are in place, snaps shut into a suspenseful time-is-of-the-essence thriller.

Señor Garcia (shown at right), who hails from Barcelona, and his cinematographer, Alejandro Moreno, certainly know how to set us up: a creepy prologue, then a nightmare and an unsettling family situation, missing passport and flash flood -- all leading finally to that decaying hotel/mansion, a frightened old man and a captive child. The early camerawork, hand-held but not unduly jiggly, plus the color, composition and lighting, ensure that we're quickly in thrall to the super-eerie atmosphere.

For some filmmakers, this would be enough (it's usually not for us moviegoers, however), but Garcia and D'Ovidio give us plenty more, including characters whose rather interesting back stories come to the surface in a manner that provides one of the cleverer twists in this tale of possession by a centuries-old evil.

The characters -- father, daughter, new wife-to-be, news reporter/sister-in-law and her hunky video/sound man -- are also smarter than the usual forget-to-turn-on-the-light variety. They argue and bond and then, of course (some of them, anyway) must die.

The always sexy and usually proactive Peter Facinelli (two photos up and below, right) plays Dad, while Sophia Myles (above, and below, center) essays his upcoming bride, while Nathalia Ramos (shown at bottom) plays the generally angry daughter.

Most of the cast, Spanish or Hispanic all, appear to hail from either Spain or maybe Colombia, where this movie was filmed. Each of them is on the mark, character-wise, and some -- Carolina Guerra as the sister-in-law -- are unusually attractive. Look for a staple of Mexican/Colombian telenovelas, Juan Pablo Gamboa, as the local cop who gets involved with our crew.

The Damned was originally titled Gallows Hill -- a perhaps more unusual name -- yet the generic "Damned," given how you'll feel by the end of the film, works even better. The movie is also plotted in tighter, more-interesting-than-usual fashion for this genre, with its prologue and conclusion firmly connected. This makes the whole of what we've just witnessed sadly satisfying -- if on a very dark level.

From IFC Midnight, The Damned, running a sleek 88 minutes, will be available this coming Friday, July 25, via VOD, and will open in a limited release in theaters on August 29.

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