The Devil’s Tomb (2009 movie) review…

The Devil’s Tomb (2009 movie) review after the break…

The Devil’s Tomb (2009 movie) review…

What makes a movie “bad”? Is it the lighting that makes every set look like it’s being shot at a public access cable station? Is it the set design that makes it look like it was built by the 7th grade drama class? Is it the writing that makes it read as though two teenage boys are trying to cram every “that’d be so cool!” moment from other films into their script? Is it the “I’ve directed three commercials and a music video, so of course I can direct a 90-minute film!” ego of a young director? Is it the camera that looks like someone is shooting their movie from grandma’s digital camcorder? Is the plot too ambitious for the budget? Actors who can’t act? Stock music? All of the above?

Movies take a lot of effort to make – Even the horrible and stinky ones. There are crew members on movies who work so many consecutive 18-hour days during a film shoot that a regular night’s sleep is a sign that you’ve been fired or you haven’t found a job yet. Cameras have to be moved, scenes have to shot multiple times in multiple ways (as well as re-lit), there’s post-processing that has to be done, sound effects have to be added… Even movies of horrific quality require an inhumane amount of effort to create.

Therefore, it always pains me whenever I have to write a movie review where I am forced to be less then kind. No one likes their baby to be insulted. No one likes their darling that they’ve worked months or years on to be sullied by someone who “wasn’t there” and “doesn’t understand.” I get that. I understand.

However, “The Devil’s Tomb” sucks and there’s just no getting around that point. It sucks and the only reason why you should watch it is as an example of what not to do when you write your script or direct your movie.

“The Devil’s Tomb” is a 2009 movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as the leader of a team of mercenaries who infiltrate an underground archeological dig to extract a scientist played by Ron Perlman… Or is that the “real” mission? As they soon discover, there’s far more to the mission then what they’ve been told. As the body count rises amongst the mercenaries, the “real” mission emerges and, as expected, it’s quite a bit different then the original briefing…

Right from the start, seasoned film viewers will suspect that the expiration date on this carton of milk has long since passed. The briefing pulls up some uncomfortable cliches – The cocky, varied team members from “Aliens” (There’s even a character named “Hicks”!), along with the non-team member tagging along as a team member (a la “Predator”).

More cliches follow – The backdrop story from the video game “Doom,” the lone soldier being lured into a trap via hallucinations away from the rest of the group in [Golly, how many movies have done that? Let Google be your friend in that department], the “sex as a lethal bait-and-switch” from… Oh, I’ll use “Ghost Ship” as one example but I can easily think of four others.

OK… I have to stop the review right here for a minute. Bear with me. I understand how utterly unprofessional this is to just stop a review. However, I want producers, directors and writers to just read the following very carefully for a moment. OK?

STOP USING A NAKED WOMAN TO LURE A MAN AWAY FROM SAFETY SO THAT THE NAKED WOMAN CAN TURN INTO SOMETHING ELSE AND THEN KILL THE MAN. OK? IT MAKES YOUR PRODUCTION LOOK EXTREMELY STUPID. NOT JUST STUPID BUT EXTREMELY STUPID. IF YOU FEEL THE NEED TO PUT A TOPLESS WOMAN INTO YOUR SCRIPT THAT BADLY, THEN MAKE A PORNO. OK? OK.

Back to the review…

There were a lot of aspects about this movie that were mystifying. For instance, just what was Cuba Gooding Jr (an Academy Award winner) and Ron Perlman doing here? For that matter, who thought that Henry Rollins could pull off a hysterical priest? Henry Rollins is a distinctive person and “priest” is not the first thought that crosses your mind when you think of Henry Rollins. Gooding does what he can with the material (Having a stoic role makes his job a little easier as he doesn’t have to sell a stereotype like some of the other mercenaries) but there’s nothing in this movie to work with. Perlman has nowhere to go in this film – His character is never given a chance to go from “desirable” to “deadly” which is why the finale is so ineffective – You don’t feel any betrayal or fear when you finally meet him and realize that he’s evil. You don’t see any evidence of a change over or clues from earlier sightings that he’s always been evil.

I guess one aspect of the production that I liked (besides the momentary nudity – Hey, what can I tell you? She looked nice) was the mechanic of hiring the mercenary team under false pretenses to break in rather then to rescue. I think they could have used that to greater effect in their story by perhaps having the team see evidence of an earlier but failed attempt and creating doubt in the team as to what their true intent was there.

Every movie’s job is to entertain. Some movies entertain by being thoughtful. Other movies entertain through action or gore or suspense. Some movies entertain through intentional comedy or historical accuracy. A few movies entertain through the gross neglect of cliches and flaws.

The truth is, “The Devil’s Tomb” didn’t entertain. It didn’t entertain through the plot, the dialog, the acting, the special effects or anything else. Cliches and gore don’t make a movie and neither do actors. A setting will only take a movie so far.

Avoid “The Devil’s Tomb.” Your intellect will thank you.

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