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The Damned (2013)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/11/2014

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/30/2014

We hear all the time about how global communication is making the world smaller and allowing people in distant lands to be in touch. The ability to send information anywhere via the internet has certainly made it easier to access entertainment from various parts of the Earth. Does this explain the recent increase in movies coming out of South America, or is there another cause? In recent years, we've seen titles like Cold Sweat, Silent House, and Penumbra, which clearly represent a new voice in South American filmmakers, many of whom have a penchant for horror movies. While it does feature some international actors, The Damned is the latest in this new wave of South American horror.

David Reynolds (Peter Facinelli) has traveled to Colombia, along with his fiancee, Lauren (Sophia Myles), in order to retrieve his daughter, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), who has been documenting poverty in the country. Jill has been traveling with Gina (Carolina Guerra), the sister of David's deceased wife. When David is reunited with Jill and Gina, he also meets Ramon (Sebastian Martinez), the cameraman and Jill's new love interest. David is prepared to take Jill back to the United States, but she's left her passport in another city. The group begins the journey, taking a backroad shortcut which Gina claims is safe. However, the road is treacherous and a flash-flood topples the SUV. The group flees to a nearby house for safety, where they find Felipe (Gustavo Angarita), an old man who acts very suspicious and who is hesitant to let them inside. Upon exploring the house, they find a locked door in the basement which houses a young girl, Ana Maria (Julieta Salazar). Despite Felipe's protests, Ana Maria is freed from the room. As they wait for the storm to pass so that they can get to the next town, mysterious things begin to happen.

The Damned makes a concerted effort to combine various elements of the thriller/horror genre. We get a little bit of the "stranger in a strange land" formula, as David and Lauren don't speak Spanish and often feel confused and scared, especially in dangerous situations. There's a definite dose of The Exorcist-like demonic behavior as we are treated to the familiar dark force which knows all of the deep, dark secrets of the characters. The second half of the film turns into a supernatural version of The Hidden, as the evil can jump from person to person. The movie tackles each of these in the order which they appear above, and does so dutifully.

In the event that it wasn't evident, one of the main problems with The Damned is that it's not a very original movie. The fact that a little girl is the center of the plot is somewhat unique, but Director Victor Garcia doesn't know what to do with this and there is no element of menace to her. From there, it's like Screenwriter Richard D'Ovidio, who wrote the impressive Thirteen Ghosts, seems to go through a checklist of horror movie clichés. Stranded travelers go to old house -- Check. Evil is inadvertently unleashed -- Check. Evil is seductively omnipotent -- Check. Evil tries to hide in various characters -- Check. It's difficult for a movie to build any kind of suspense or tension when the audience feels that they always know what is waiting around the next corner. This is confounded by the confusing notion that the evil seemingly wants the characters to confess their greatest sins and possess them. Since when does absolution lead to possession?

The other things which hampers the movie is that even for a horror film, the characters are dumb. The fact that they release the evil is unforgivable, as we've seen this in many movies and, let's face it, there wouldn't be a movie if they didn't make this move. But, after that, they fail to notice various obvious signs that something is wrong, namely the fact that Felipe is acting so cagey. They ignore warning signs and make themselves sitting ducks. Also, why are they so afraid to go back out into the rain? Yes, Lauren was injured in the accident, but if the choice was between saving my fiancée, and getting wet, I would head outside.

I like the fact that The Damned is an international film, as it combines American and Colombian elements. But, the only foreign flavor that we get here is that an inordinate amount of the movie is in Spanish. Otherwise, this feels like any other horror movie. And that's the problem here. There is nothing special about The Damned. There are no scares, the story (once it arrives) is a bit too vague, and everything is too familiar. The cast is solid and the movie has a slick look, but the film is instantly forgettable.

The Damned reinforces the notion that I should stay home on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The opening, daytime scenes have a nice crispness to them. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is notable and the image is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix does a nice job of illustrating sounds coming from throughout the house, as we are treated to detailed surround and stereo effects. The front effects show nice separation and the rear doesn't simply mimic the front. The subwoofer comes into play during the flood and the "shock" moments.

The Damned Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Peter Facinelli and Writers/Producers Richard D'Ovidio and David Higgins. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY from Director Victor Garcia and Editor J.L. Romeu. "Heaven Help Us" (4 minutes) is a short featurette which offers some on-set footage along with comments form Facinelli, Producer Peter Block (who is wearing an incredibly offensive shirt), Higgins, and Carolina Guerra, who talk about the story and their work on the film. "Making Of" (10 minutes) is somewhat similar to the previous extra, but this time we hear from Garcia, Gustavo Angarita and Nathalia Ramos and we get a different set of behind-the-scenes moments. This piece examines the production and also shows us the application of the gore effects. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long