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In 36 Saints, There Is Only the Senseless Curse

Strip Catholic teaching bare, remove its overarching story, its context, its reaching toward God at the expense of man, and you have a dime-store horror novel chronicling ghastly deaths—of, say, Saint Stephen (stoned to death) or Saint Maria Goretti (stabbed 14 times by her attempted rapist). Add to the mix an obsession with an obscure corner of mystical Judaism and you have 36 Saints, the fourth feature by writer-director Eddy Duran. The low-budget slasher adapts the idea of the "lamedvavniks," or "humble chosen ones," to the present day, as it explains in peculiarly trailer-like exposition at the beginning, complete with a faux-gravelly voice: "In every generation, there are 36 individuals who carry the suffering of the world. . . . Without them, the world we know will fall into . . . darkness. To achieve this darkness, there are those who have chosen evil over good." This generation's are headed by the demon Lilith. If this premise already sounds vague, it's stretched further by mounting improbabilities, like the fact that all God's chosen attend the same Washington Heights school, or that they're all VIPs at a local club. (They also all have saints' names—Joan, Valentine, etc.—and mirror their namesakes' lives and deaths.) But the real problem with this film is that its voiceover at the beginning is its only real attempt at storytelling; there is no central character or quest to latch onto. There is only the senseless curse and its slow but sure fulfillment.

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