Are we not at the end of this possession cycle yet? I mean, mixing it up with torture or haunted houses might have dragged it out a bit longer but every time a film comes out now where it is revealed that a character is possessed by a demon, a witch or the big red guy himself I notice i let out an audible, depressed sigh. When it’s combined with the found footage technique I actually want to vomit.
On the positive side The Damned, or Gallows Hill, at least is filmed in the traditional form so we don’t have anyone talking to a low rent phone video. Oh actually we do, but only for about thirty seconds. The rest is nicely shot with the main bonus being that it is set in Bogota, Columbia. Unfortunately within five minutes we have left the city and we end up in a big, old spooky house that could be anywhere.
The plot concerns five people who’s car is hit by a flash flood and they have to take refuge in the fore mentioned dark house, where the old man there tells them not to leave the living room. Of course no one pays attention to the doddery old fart and before you know it they’ve found a sweet little girl locked up in a steel box in the cellar. But is she being abused or being kept in there for more darker reasons? Actually thank god it turns out the girl is (spoiler, although I gave it away in the opening paragraph) possessed by a witch. If she was being assaulted by the old geezer this film would be a) short, b) grim and c) not a horror film.
The script does give the characters some half way decent back stories and motivations. There is Peter Facinelli and Nathalia Ramos as his daughter. This is kind of odd casting because he looks far too young and she looks much more mature to be father and daughter. Actually there is twenty years between them but I was convinced that she kept on calling him “Dan” not “Dad” and couldn’t understand why he was bossing here around so much. Eventually I had to just accept that they were father and daughter, but he was still being a bit of a dick towards her. Actually all the characters are kind of annoying. Sophia Myles looks kind of shocked to be in this film as Facinelli’s soon to be wife, but is mostly stuck with moaning and being annoyed with everyone. There are, at least, a couple of actual Colombians in the movie but Carolina Guerra and Sebastian Martinez are given the least to do, die first and are generally portrayed as horrible people.
It is a shame that we don’t like these characters more, but experienced actors Myles and Facinelli in particular must have been had a tough old shoot not to have been able to bring any of their natural charisma to the roles. At least, I suppose the writers tried to give them some depth as the demon witch thing reveals their darkest secrets. What is it with demons and their always knowing everyone’s private life? Sure I can understand it once they’ve taken over their bodies but they seem to have total knowledge of everyone without even having looked through anyone’s mobile.
I think another problem with the cast is that they’re all too damned good looking. When Sophia Myles is the most normal looking person in the cast you know we’re just going to have to watch a parade of near-models pretending they’re human beings. I’m not saying that I don’t want to see attractive people being possessed and butchered. I do, who doesn’t? But it just doesn’t feel anything like reality.
There are a few good ideas thrown in. Killing the possessed person only results in the murderer being possessed by the witch. This adds a level of what-the-hell-are we-going-to-now in finishing off this beast. The final act uses this dilemma to good affect as things speed up as the body count mounts. Plus everyone gets to act all devilish which must have been at least a little bit of fun for the cast. Plus the ending is fairly solid.
Other than that though I’m afraid we’ve all been here before, many times. At least there’s no dog in it which is a relief because we all know what happens to dogs in these films, and unlike the cast, it ain’t pretty.