My thighs are in agony from spending a few hours crawling, crouching, shimmying and accidentally head-butting the ‘hidden’ parts of the Paris catacombs; but my brain’s nascent sense of furious sentience is shitting its own dirty protest at the 90 minutes I wasted on this repulsive waste of a film.
Catacombs (2007) beat the marginally superior As Above, So Below (2014) to be the first American horror film set in the famous boneyard tunnels of Paris (though the latter used the truly claustrophobic layout of the tunnels, crawlspaces and uneven, rocky, watery territory to decent effect).
If I hadn’t actually gone into said catacombs this past weekend [more on that later], I’d not have had the factual inaccuracies to whinge about, and instead I could have just bitched about how every other element of the film is a complete and utter failure.
First of all, casting. It’d been 6 years since lead Shannyn Sossamon had peaked in A Knight’s Tale. Her immature student sister is played by Pink. Yes, Pink. The singer, Pink, who delivers all of her lines in an unconvincing mumble-hurry through gurning faces so pronounced that they’d even look forced in a music video. Fucking Pink?! Our male French lead, a cataphile-cum-club-nite-promoter, bears all the markings of a Justin Timberlake specimen, only with more streaks of chin-fuzz. Truly a casting for the 2007 zeitgeist.
Frankly, the film is doomed from the opening credits: watered-down club rock that was dated even then, and a font that throbs, expands and retracts like a shitty music video, probably by Pink.
It gets even worse. Sossamon’s character Victoria, a meek piece of tissue paper with the dress sense and gait of a tramp, immediately narrates that everyone but her winds up dead at the end of the film. Spoilers! Pretty and shy and angelic Victoria is shown giggling while practising her French, but then we cut to two overweight, stone-faced French border agents manhandling her luggage, grilling her as if she’s a criminal and making fun of her for not speaking their native language. What a painfully infuriating fallacy. Take it from someone who knows – that’s actually the exact behaviour of American Customs, Border and TSA officers. Literally no other country’s airport staff presents themselves as such ignorant, violent, clueless, incompetent, power-tripping cunts.
40-year-old student Pink takes poor Joan of Arc back to her trendily shitty student digs, where they get ready for an illegal rave in the catacombs that’s so secret that there must be some sort of Pink magical invisibility shield that masks the conspicuously massive queue of would-be clubbers, bouncers, neon lights and pulsating music. Perhaps they’re the same mythical construction workers who made the super-secret entrance more spacious than your average cellar door (compared to a winding, ten-inch-high slidey hole), cleared away the knee-deep water, raised the ceilings everywhere by at least 15 feet (so you can actually stand up in them), installed toilets, removed the iron poles and hooks that actually protrude from the ceilings, cleaned up and levelled the tunnel floors, and installed a fully-stocked, triple-decker bar. All of those things and more totally exist in these massively illegal catacomb limestone quarries! Fucking idiotic fuckering fuckfacers.
There are parties that actually go on down there in the quarries, but they are low-key and not among the touristy catacombs themselves – anywhere you see immaculately-stacked bones, there would not have been space for a fucking rave. Yet at said stupid fucking rave, there’s a decadent red-and-gold lounge in which Justin Le Timbrelac tells a tale of a mad goat-mask-wearing Satanist who was raised in the catacombs to be pure evil. We know he’s the product of hell because we get a visual reenactment and the camera does that shaky blurry thing over reams of guitar thrashing backing music that clearly only the devil listens to.
[Actually, to be fair, it was exactly the kind of music I heard a few smokers listening to when we stumbled across a bunch of cataphiles in their so-called ‘cinema room’, so they’ve got me there.]
Earlier on, Pink is thankfully dispatched by said Goatface when the group is separated after a dazzlingly incompetent police raid – correctly identified by Pink as ‘catacops’. Though what I was unaware of was that French police raids apparently consist of blindly beating random ravers with billy clubs, causing panicked, fatal stampedes in a massive crowd in an underground location with no clear exits. The more you know!
The rest of the movie is an experience in Sossamon’s unacceptable style of screaming. I’ve never known a wail so caustic to the ears, or one to be unleashed as its own form of horror for such a sustained period of any film – including the Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner scene. Which is an interesting choice of mouth noise, considering her main objective is to find her way out of the catacombs without attracting the attention of Goaty McGoatface.
In the end blah blah blah, I don’t give a shit; the end credits could not have come fast enough. I’d imagine the narrative might have made for a decent campfire tale, but in the hands of everyone involved here, it’s a B film that was made 9 years too late. It’s the sort of film in which a character non-ironically speaks the line, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” I mean, imagine if Urban Legends was made now. Is it the worst thing I’ve ever seen? Not quite. I once saw a homeless crack addict piss out something brown in broad daylight near my house.