As a card-carrying claustrophobic, I’ve never particularly understood the allure of cave-diving. The new direct-to-video release Devil’s Revenge will do nothing to change the opinion of this claustrophobic, but that’s as scary as it gets. The movie stars “Days of Our Lives” alum Jason Brooks as a distinctly un-Indiana Jones-like archaeologist who returns from a disastrous expedition in a cave in rural Kentucky where he unsuccessfully tried to locate a mysterious relic his family has sought for generations. A curse, you know. Once back from the field, he starts having visions – not to say hallucinations – and comes to the conclusion that the only way to stop them is to go back to the cave with his family, find the relic and destroy it once and for all.
Why in Hell anyone would think dragging his family into the same cave where people on the last expedition there died was a good idea, but that’s exactly what Brooks’ tortured archaeologist does. Needless to say, things don’t go well. It’s supposed to be a horror movie, after all. The screenplay credit, listing Maurice Hurley a former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” scribe, as the sole writer, is buried deeper in the end credits than any movie relic. Why Hurley didn’t just request a pseudonym is the real mystery.
It’s difficult to be scared when you don’t believe a thing that happens on the screen. Horror often relies on primal emotion over logic, but the audience has to have some scrap of verisimilitude to hang their hat on. They don’t get that here. One might wonder why the spirits of pissed-off Aztecs are wandering around rural Kentucky, some 3,000 miles from their usual southwestern stomping grounds, but just go with it. The screenplay verges on incoherence at times anyway – leave logic at the door. The larger problem is that the scary apparitions simply aren’t as scary as those typically seen in PG-13 spook shows like the Ouija and Annabelle movies, and director Jared Cohn can’t seem to figure out how to make them more intimidating.
It can’t be said that the experienced, veteran cast doesn’t try. They do, and Brooks is particularly game as the tormented archaeologist. William Shatner, who also executive produced, plays his hard-nosed, obsessed father, who’s all but literally cracking a whip to get his family to go into a cave which might actually be the gateway to Hell. Shatner chews the scenery energetically, but cannot clear the critical hurdle of getting any credibility into this extremely muddled would-be horror exercise. The “Star Trek” connections abound here. Jeri Ryan, of “Star Trek: Voyager,” in addition to “Boston Public,” “Shark” and “Body of Proof,” and many other TV credits, is along for the ride as Brooks’ oddly cooperative wife, and does a creditable job of at least looking like she’s taking this all seriously, which is more than the audience is likely to do.
The movie’s budgetary limitations become painfully evident in its third act, when Shatner’s Ahab-esque father figure appears nearly out of thin air to take on spectral foes with a cylinder projectile launcher. All explosions have been added in post-production, and conspicuously throw no debris, further adding to the sense that this whole exercise should be filed under “Not Ready for a SyFy Channel Movie of the Week.” No doubt timed for the lead-in to Halloween, Devil’s Revenge is more confusing than frightening, and doesn’t have the saving grace of at least being unintentionally funny. The Devil’s Revenge, sad to say, is in watching it.
Devil’s Revenge is available on Video on Demand on October 1st, 2019.