Catacombs (2007)
By: Craig Villinger on June 24, 2009  | 
DVD
Sony (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English, English (FHI), Spanish, Hebrew Subtitles. 88 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Directors: Tomm Coker, David Elliot
Starring: Shannyn Sossamon, Alecia Moore, Emil Hostina
Screenplay: Tomm Coker, David Elliot
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
The Catacombs DVD and I got off on the wrong foot as it was quick to highlight my ignorance of today's popular music scene. A sticker plastered across the plastic sleeve proudly announced that the movie featured pop singer "Pink" in her first role, to which I thought "Who the hell is Pink?" "Do I know Pink?" Clearly, the sticker acted as though I damn well should be aware of this Pink person's career history, but the fact was the name didn't ring any bells, so I began to feel a little inadequate. Of course, five minutes in I managed to put a face to the name and realised that, on some level at least, I did know who Pink was and had not yet become one of those "old" people that has completely lost touch with what all the hip young kids are listening to, but even so, the initial damage was done. I had been slighted. And over the next 80 minutes Catacombs did little to make it up to me…

Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) is an American who has just arrived in Paris to hang out with her sis (Pink, credited as Alecia Moore here just to add to my confusion). Now, you'd think that as a new arrival in town she'd head straight to the Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe perhaps, but no, apparently for the youngins these days the Catacombs – an expansive maze-like network of subterranean tunnels that has housed the bones of seven million dead Frenchies for centuries - is the place to be, and tonight the Catacombs will play host to a massive illegal rave filled with dancing, drinking, drug taking, and general youthful debauchery.

Soonishly, with the rave in full swing and after sampling some hallucinatory substances whilst listening to an old urban myth about a goat headed killer raised by Satanists that purportedly roams the Catacombs picking off those who lose their way, Victoria does indeed get lost while wandering around on her lonesome, and when a curious fellow wearing a goat's head jumps from the shadows to put the frighteners on her an extended period of running and screaming ensues as Victoria frantically attempts to negotiate the expansive underground network and find her way back to the surface.

I've got to hand it to filmmakers for their choice of setting. An almost endless series of underground tunnels filled with the bones of millions is a great location for a horror movie, but unfortunately this neat set-up is nothing more than the catalyst for a series of poorly staged "running in the dark" sequences that, despite reminding the viewer of movies like House of 1000 Corpses and The Descent at times, were completely devoid of atmosphere or tension. Visually the movie has a certain pizzazz, but the stylish set design, flashy camera angles and ADD friendly editing doesn't do much to hide the fact that the movie is heavily padded and dead set Boring (yes, the capitol b is deliberate). Sossamon spends a lot of time moving quickly, yet the film moves at a snail's pace, and since the goat headed killer pops up for just a quick scare at the beginning then seemingly disappears into thin air for the next 50 minutes, you couldn't even class this as a "chase thriller" as, for most of the second act, Sossamon is more often than not getting spooked by little more than her own shadow. It's more like a… "running thriller" perhaps?

So she runs, and she runs, and she runs some more, but unfortunately the one thing Sossamon can't run away from is the fact that her character is an annoying, whiny, borderline loony that is not likely to draw much sympathy from the viewer. Sossamon's performance is actually a good one though – in fact she carries the film, appearing in pretty much every frame, often sans company - and she deserves some sort of acknowledgement for keeping me awake when every other part of this movie was telling me to take a long nap. Not putting in such a good performance though were the screenwriters, as poor Shannyn couldn't have had more than a twenty page script to work from since her primary tasks were running down spooky tunnels or climbing or just plain freaking out, sometimes without saying a word for what seemed like an eternity. Pink's performance as the bitchy sister is surprisingly good too, though her screen time is limited to book ending the extended Sossamon running sequences.

Yeah, running. Sossamon does a lot of that, in case I haven't made that clear already, but at some point, amidst all the chaotic running and freak out's, the viewer that hasn't fallen asleep might begin to sense that Catacombs is actually more of an exercise in fear and paranoia than a simple chase thriller. The film is spiced with moments that make you wonder whether, like those robot toys we used to play with as a kids, there is more than meets the eye - Sossamon's character's sanity is brought into question early on, and then of course there's the drug taking - but even though the story has more than one layer it's still very Boring, and the simplicity of the whole film can't even be appreciated on a mindless spectacle level since there's not much gore, and only a few brief moments of female boobage to keep the mind from wandering while Sossamon runs around.

The movie does end on a high note with a neat twist finale that I didn't see coming (probably because I was too Bored to look for it) but this last minute escalation wasn't enough to make me think Catacombs was a good movie – it just meant I won't end up remembering it as one of the worst movies I've seen this year.

Truth be told, I probably won't remember it all.
Video
The 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 transfer is reasonably sharp, but much of the movie takes place in near darkness and the blacks can get a little fuzzy at times. The Region 1 disc is non-anamorphic, so Aussie buyers can claim a minor victory here.
Audio
We get an English 5.1 mix along with a Spanish dub, just in case you feel like pretending you are watching a foreign language flick. I resisted the urge to see if the movie was actually more entertaining in Spanish and stuck with the original language track, and for what was obviously a fairly cheap movie it wasn't too bad. Dialogue is always easy to understand - at least on the occasions when people actually speak - and while there's not a lot of surround usage, the rears are used sparingly for creepy noises and ambient effects.
Extra Features
Not a lot here. Inside the Catacombs is an average behind-the-scenes featurette that quickly became annoying because the talking heads spent several minutes telling us what the movie was about. Thanks, but I just watched it, I know it's about a girl who goes to Paris and gets lost in the Catacombs! Many actors and crew members are interviewed, but they don't tell us anything we don't already know during the featurette's six and a half minute duration. Trailers for Gabriel, Love Lies Bleeding, Wind Chill, and Vacancy are also included.

This is a disappointing collection of extras when compared with the Region 1 disc, which comes with several additional featurettes, storyboards, deleted scenes, and a commentary track from writer/director team Tomm Coker and David Elliot.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Catacombs is saved from a place in the one Aussie hall-of-shame by a decent conclusion, but even so there's very little to recommend it. Lots of running, lots of screaming, but not much entertainment. Compared to the Region 1 release our Region 4 disc is lite on extras but does feature an anamorphic transfer, so if you absolutely positively must buy this movie you'll have to decide whether you want superior image quality or more supplements when choosing between the local disc or the import option.

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