Entertaining enough to please genre fans

by Nav Qateel

A father and his fiance travel all the way to Colombia to bring back his strong-willed and reluctant daughter Jill for his wedding ceremony. Jill has been staying with her aunt Gina (Carolina Guerra) and she also has a local boyfriend she recently met. Dad Peter Facinelli and his future wife Lauren eventually talk Jill into flying back with them. However, Jill has forgotten her passport and the group of five must travel in torrential rain along poor roads made treacherous because of the constant downpour. Ignoring the warning they were given by a cop who had advised them to turn back, they continue on for a short while until they end up being washed off the road in a mudslide.

Their car is now on its roof and useless, so they head to a nearby guest house hoping to get out of the rain and try to raise the alarm. The man appears to live alone but doesn’t have a phone. After the old man warns them not to snoop about the place’ that’s precisely what Jill and Ramon do. They get a shock when they discover a young girl locked up in a tiny room. It’s not long after they free her, that the terrified group find out just why she was locked up in the first place.

The Damned
Directed by
Víctor García
Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles, Nathalia Ramos
Release Date
29 August 2014
Nav’s Grade: C+

This sub-genre is hardly uncharted territory and as a matter-of-fact, the premise is almost identical to the Slovakian film Evil I just recently watched (yup, they make watchable little low-budget films in Slovakia, too), where a group of young adults making a documentary, come across a woman in a hidden locked room. Thinking she’s being held prisoner by the compulsory creepy living alone homeowner, they release the woman. It’s not long before the dying group regret freeing the murderous woman. Sound familiar?

This is director Víctor García’s fifth low-budget feature and another horror to add to his growing collection. The Damned is a middling scarer that treads old ground without adding anything particularly new to the genre–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves the filmmaker with more to do to make up for the lack of originality. While García’s team attempted to frighten us, it tended towards working its way down a checklist of horror tropes, and I’d have to begrudgingly admit that, while not everything in The Damned was outstanding, the filmmaker did provide a sufficient amount of entertainment and tension-building to please genre fans.

Richard D’Ovidio–the writer behind such movies as Exit Wounds, Thir13en Ghosts, and a film I happened to admire, The Call–has infused enough decent scary moments into The Damned, even if he is guilty of occasionally dipping into the generic creepy-haunted-house bag of tricks to get us through some of the more mundane segments of the story. D’Ovidio more than makes up for this by giving us a perfectly believable reason for the group to find themselves at the secluded, rundown hotel, which is always a huge bonus in my book. We’re also provided with a serviceable backstory for the father and daughter being at odds over dad’s new fiance, too. Even with a lot of well-written plot and scary situations, there were certain shortcoming when it came to the dialogue. One of the best bits came when the landlord warned the group, “Do not leave this room.” Of course, as soon as his back was turned, that’s exactly what they did–they left the room, to go investigating. Initially it was to find a toilet but after hearing childlike crying coming from some unknown location in the house, the rest of the group join in the hunt.

Peter Facinelli plays David, the father and future husband, with just the right amount of commitment but I didn’t sense he was prepared to push himself further. Facinelli handled himself well in the 2011 movie Loosies, and thanks to having a teenage daughter myself, this critic also watched him perform in the Twilight saga. His understated performance in the shiny vampire franchise was reminiscent of how he played the David character here. Sophia Myles plays Lauren, and although a lot of you will know her from Transformers: Age of Extinction, I remember the actress fondly as the conniving Erika in Underworld, one of my favorite vampire movies. The cast here mostly do an able job, particularly the more experienced of them. You could see the actors just went for it, with their possessed-by-a-witch characters, and this was helped along thanks to a competent job from the makeup department.

Alejandro Moreno’s cinematography was certainly put to good use, and between that and the editing team of Etienne Boussac & José Luis Romeu–both of whom have impressive movies under their belts–the scares and tension felt more effective than they had any right to be. Víctor García has slowly been growing as a filmmaker and one only needs peruse his relatively short list of 6 credits dating back to 2003, to track his progress. Moreno’s 4-minute horror short T is for Tiles can be watched here. It was an entrant for 2012’s ABCs of Death. If you have a weak stomach then don’t watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.