After taking on a creature posing as God in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, it was maybe inevitable that William Shatner would one day end up facing off against the Devil (or at least something suitably demonic). Shatner vs. Satan: what more could you ask for from a movie? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot, in point of fact.
The Tomb: Devil’s Revenge sees archaeologist John Brock (Jason Brooks) leading an expedition into the caves of rural Kentucky, seeking an ancient artefact which his family has coveted for generations. Tasked by his father (Shatner) to bring it back home, John’s expedition ends in tragedy with the death of one of his team, and he starts to be haunted by demonic visions. John soon realises that he has to return in order to find the cursed relic and destroy it, accompanied by his wife (Jeri Ryan) and children.
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One of the big selling points for this film appears to be the number of Star Trek alumni involved: besides Shatner and Ryan (Seven of Nine in Voyager and Picard), Brooks was in the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot (as ‘Romulan helmsman’, no less), and the movie script was penned by Maurice Hurley, who had worked on The Next Generation. However, in the same sense that one swallow does not a summer make, the mere involvement of several Trek bods does not constitute a good film, nor ensure a fruitful endeavour.
It really is remarkable how a film which has a relatively lean running time of 98 minutes can still feel so painfully drawn out and overlong, with one sequence of John walking up and down various corridors while looking for his children at their college feeling as though it continues for nigh on a fortnight. The editing is also a bit choppy and disjointed in places, and appears to have been spliced together after using one of the unwieldy giant scimitars brandished by the demonic forces seen throughout the picture to make the cuts.
Another achievement of The Tomb: Devil’s Revenge is how it manages to simultaneously appear moderately budgeted for a B-movie, but also look incredibly cheap. One example of this is the movie’s opening title sequence, which – rather than having something specially put together by a designer of visuals or graphics to create or evoke a mood – consists of a montage of clips taken from the film that you are about to watch, thereby setting out its stall early on as being a movie which simply does not want to try too hard.
Perhaps some of the budget went into repairing the damage caused by Shatner as he chewed his way through the scenery – and not in a good way, sadly. Usually, William Shatner can be relied upon to bring sheer entertainment value to almost any vehicle in which he appears; alas, it was a shock to learn of his evident retirement from acting, which apparently took place immediately prior to being in this film – this can be the only reasonable explanation for his delivering a performance so arch, you could drive traffic through it.
It fails to help matters that Hurley’s script is such thin gruel, and lacking in any real substance, giving the actors very little to play with. There are various points in the movie where the dialogue proves so sphincter-clenchingly awful, you have to wonder if Hurley has ever met other people, or engaged in an actual conversation with someone, giving every impression of not knowing how humans actually speak; it makes George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy characters’ speech patterns appear fluid and naturalistic in comparison.
But then, what can you truly expect from a movie where an historic relic is referred to as “the relic”? If you are not even bothered enough to try and devise a name for your movie’s mystic MacGuffin, how can you expect your audience to buy what you are trying to sell them? The whole story just feels hopelessly derivative, filled with just about every standard horror movie cliche going – if a viewer who is far from being a horror genre aficionado can spot all these hoary old tropes being wheeled out willy-nilly, then evidently something is seriously amiss.
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Throw into the mix one of the most ineptly-shot, directed and acted chase sequences ever committed to celluloid, a complete lack of any emotional consistency or continuity when it comes to its main characters, and an ending which makes the entire endeavour feel like an utter waste of your time and effort, there really is nothing to recommend The Tomb: Devil’s Revenge – it even sadly fails to fall into that ‘so bad, it’s good’ shlock category, and is just plain bad. One to avoid, unless you just happen to be a masochist with too much time on your hands.
The Tomb: Devil’s Revenge is out on DVD and Digital on 14th September.