When you find out that Catacombs sat unreleased for a couple of years before someone retitled it Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice, you can’t help but wonder what sort of theatrical tragedy is heinous enough that it was thought the film could be enhanced by pretending it was the third sequel in a movie series that was marked at once by both its obscurity and its progressively worse unrelated tales of killer meteors, radioactive snakes and African witch doctors.
And as soon as you realize it’s the sort of movie where Salami (Timothy Van Patten) from The White Shadow plays a priest battling a demon in the basement of an abbey, you quickly understand everything, and thank whatever benevolent god you choose to worship that Satan was never allowed to release a Curse V: The Really Final Ultimate Sacrifice.
As is usual in these demon infestation cases, it all begins back in the Middle Ages where demons apparently chose to hide in plain site in places like a building where there’s tons of anti-Demon Christians running around.
This demon fool gets imprisoned in the catacombs beneath an Italian abbey and it would be there he sits serving out his four hundred plus year prison sentence until some moron monk starts mucking around down there and takes off the dang seal that was holding the demon inside!
As the demon begins to wreak havoc (and by “wreak havoc” I mean “stays in the basement killing and/or possessing whomever is dimwitted enough to wander down there”) strange things begin to happen.
Strange, demonic things like people getting bloody noses! And dirt falling through cracks in the ceiling! And an old dying priest talking about wanting to have sex with God to an understandably confused and repulsed Brother Salami! Now, don’t you wished you worked harder in the White Shadow’s summer basketball camp so you might have got a basketball scholarship to a Division I college, Salami?
But Brother Salami isn’t going to have to battle the demon alone! There’s also Elizabeth. She’s a teacher who’s visiting the Abbey and if God works in mysterious ways, one of his most mysterious moves was just what in the hell was the point of the Elizabeth character. She adds nothing to the story or does anything to move it along. She mostly just stands around in her bulky sweaters and unflattering slacks while the fire and brimstone priest rails against her being in the Abbey because she’s a woman.
Yes, she ultimately gets possessed by the demon, but only because she was wandering around the catacombs. The unimaginative story, which was so dull that it tests the faith of even the strongest and least demanding z grade horror movie fan, could have unfolded the exact same way without her. (And don’t get excited about her being possessed. That merely amounted to her wearing black contacts, having her hair teased up, and using her demon powers to punch Salami in the stomach a few times from across the room.)
Another problem was that the writers (Yes! This biblically epic botch took two to script!) must have thought that their work was done once they put a demon in the root cellar.
There was no background on who or what this demon was or what would happen if he ever escaped. It’s almost as if they expected the audience to take it on the faith that the mere fact there’s a demon (a dude in stringy white wig in old guy make up) is all we need to know to get involved in whether a bunch of colorless mopes in brown robes can keep their basement door locked.
Wrong. Don’t care if some old monk mansion in Italy has some plaster knocked loose or if dudes go down to the basement and don’t ever come up. The best part was no one else in the Abbey seemed to care when people went down and didn’t come up either!
For his part, the demon is pretty moronic as far as unstoppable forces of darkness go. Once he arranges for a monk to inadvertently break him out of his cell, why doesn’t he rush up the stairs and out into the world to do Satan’s shady business? Or why doesn’t he use his superpowers to possess or impersonate a bunch of people to make his escape?
The demon does have a nice moment when he causes a life-sized statue of Jesus to come to life. It may have been overly obvious when the re-animated statue plunges the spike he took out of his feet into the monk’s head, but it was the only bit of lively lunacy in a movie full of moments where you wondered if the demon was just too lazy to do anything more than hang around in his underground lair.
The film further wards off the audience like an evil curse when its most unlikable character, the jerk second-in-command monk, turns out to be the only one smart enough to worry about the old legend of the demon in the basement.
And while it is the pleasant, but clearly bored Brother Salami who finally beats the demon, he does so using a magic mirror reflecting holy light. Or something. Again, dumb move by the demon to hang around the one place where the people had the tools and knowledge to imprison you before.
Dumber move running an already awful horror series into the ground with this absolutely ugly-looking sludge of perpetually nonsensical and dreary build up with almost no payoff.
Dumbest move? Thinking a movie called either Catacombs or Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice made in combination with Charles Band’s Empire Pictures and a bunch of Italians, wouldn’t leave you feeling touched by the devil himself right in your privates.
© 2013 MonsterHunter