Catacombs(1988) – 5

Director – David Schmoeller

Cast – Timothy Van Patten, Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, Laura Schaefer, Vernon Dobtcheff, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Brett Porter, Michael Pasby

Release Year – 1988

Reviewed by John of the Dead

This is another flick that I came across randomly, and the fact that it had to do with catacombs and is an 80s watch had me pretty interested in how this lesser-known experience would turn out. I honestly did not expect this to be very good(more on that later), and in the end it turns out that I did know better and this beautifully shot film never amounted to the great horror flick that it could have been.

400 years after a powerful demon was sealed inside a monastery above a series of catacombs, a young girl arrives at the monastery and sets off a series of demonic events that soon free the powerful demon.  Hell-bent on revenge, the demon then wreaks havoc on the monks in a battle between heaven and hell.

Initially(and still officially) titled Catacombs, when the film’s production company went bankrupt it was retitled Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice, in a cheap attempt to cash in on the Curse pseudo-success, although this resulted in this 1988 effort to formally be released in 1993.

Religious horror, especially involving the Catholic church, has always interested me, so the idea of monks battling against a powerful demon was a sweet idea to me, and was definitely the highest selling point of the storyline. The setting was great given it took place in an old monastery that thanks to good direction came off very creepy, and I was glad that the film ran just under 90 minutes given its numerous story-related faults. I found the main character play between our two protagonists, a young priest and the woman staying at the monastery, quite boring and uninteresting. To make matters worse the pacing was off and we had to wait for extended periods of time between kills, periods of time that consisted of useless banter between the characters just mentioned. I did enjoy the kill sequences, and the fight scenes between the monks and the demon were pretty sweet and well-written, but they only managed to even out the damage already caused, not save the film.

Director David Schmoeller, who gave us the awesome Tourist Trap almost a decade before Catacombs, was the best thing about this film, and he managed to keep me interested regardless of the numerous faults previously mentioned. His cinematography is grand, which really surprised me given the film’s obviouly low budget, but he made it happen regardless. The sets used are captivating, and his execution of the demon was dead-on creepy, which helped sell the battles between the demon and the monks. We don’t get much in terms of gore or awesome kill sequences, and that definitely hurt the film given it really did not have much to offer to begin with thanks to its mediocre screenplay.

Overall, Catacombs is a film that could have been at least borderline-positive had it not been for the story’s numerous faults. The demon horror is good, but a lack of good kills did nothing to help the experience gain momentum and in the end we are left with a film that was forgotten for a reason.

Rating: 5/10

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