starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Taryn Manning, Henry Rollins, Ron Perlman, and Ray Winstone
directed by Jason Connolly
screenplay by Keith Kjornes
Ice Cold Productions (2008)
I remember a time when Cuba Gooding Jr. was considered a hot commodity in Hollywood. How long ago was that now? He's not a terrible actor, but he manages to sign on to some terrible movies. The Devil's Tomb manages to avoid being a total disaster, but it's still a far cry from Jerry Maguire or even Daddy Day Camp. I guess I should tip my hat to this film's casting agent, because not only is Cuba in the lead, but the supporting cast includes the likes of Ray Winstone and Ron Perlman. Those are gets in my book.
Okay, so with the Iraq war raging on, Perlman plays an archeologist of sorts who is investigating an underground layer thought to hold some ancient relics--a discovery made in the search for WMDs. But he and his team lose contact with the outside world, so it's up to Captain Mack (Gooding Jr.) and his team of disparate soldiers to rescue them at the behest of a CIA operative (Valerie Cruz). When they arrive at the site, the only one they find is a priest who's barely alive and seemingly afflicted by some sort of disease.
The team heads down into the underground labyrinth in search of the others, but they soon find a menacing supernatural presence that has not only wreaked havoc on the original research team, but is now targeting Captain Mack and the others. And it seems the CIA operative knows a lot more than she's letting on.
There are moments in this film that are genuinely intense and suck you into the storyline, but they are not consistence and are continually interrupted by moments of sheer stupidity on the part of various team members. Perhaps the entity diminishes the higher reasoning power of the characters, but the utter lack of disbelief shown towards various hallucinations is astounding. For example, one soldier midway through the film sees a grade school version of the daughter she aborted years ago, instantly recognizes her, and follows after her without bothering to question why a small American child would be wandering an underground lair alone in the middle of an Iraqi desert. The movie is peppered with galling moments like that.
The dialogue is another drawback to the movie. Some confrontational moments are good and performed well by the cast, while others that usually involve drawn out pieces of exposition induce eye rolling. And the supposed tender moments between soldiers and their apparitions are just awful.
I'm not sure when a horror movie set in a modern-day war zone will be good, but I won't hold my breath. At least The Devil's Tomb was better than that horrid movie set in Afghanistan, Red Sands, which I saw earlier in the year.