Is The Damned scary? Yes, a bit. But full enjoyment of this horror film might depend on the depth of your sympathy for characters who are teeth-gnashingly stupid, ignore grim warnings, wander off alone in a sprawling old inn after it becomes clear that something is creepily amiss — and who are almost uniformly some variation of jerk.
True, those are the structural beams of the genre, but The Damned‘s firm adherence to template and its built-in contrivances are a weakness. After a thoroughly avoidable car accident en route to Medellín, an extended-family group — an American father (Peter Facinelli;) his new British fiancée (Sophia Myles;) his teen daughter; her boyfriend; and her Colombian aunt, an ethically challenged TV reporter — seek shelter in an isolated, empty Colombian inn whose keeper is inexplicably hostile. Ignoring the innkeeper’s instructions to stay in one place, the travelers end up discovering and freeing the young daughter he’s chained in the basement.
Of course, the girl is not what she first seems, and all manner of gruesome deaths and bloodshed follow. The twist is that the demon child can peer into the lives of her victims, and before torturing them or inhabiting their bodies, spills their deepest, darkest secrets. (She’s a bit of a slut-shamer, that one.)
It’s all well acted and expertly crafted — quick edits that play mind and visual games with the viewer, music that heightens tension, some cool special effects — but most of the victims are people you want to slap even before their secrets are spilled.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 27, 2014