The sets, effects and production design of “The Devil Conspiracy” is damned impressive — huge and gloomy, foggy, Apocalyptic and Hellish.
One would expect no less from a movie that mashes up “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist” and “The Boys from Brazil.”
“Conspiracy” lets us know it is heavy on exposition, “DNA,” Bond villain labs and Satanic lairs, shoot-outs, stabbings and beheadings and Christian mythology. Satan is something of a smart ass. St. Michael, in his angelic and his human guises, is something of a badass.
Granted, it takes a while before that fateful decision is made to “play this for laughs,” too late to alter the picture’s destiny. But by the “f— around and find out” third act, a lot what comes out of Satan and St. Michael’s mouths is pretty damned and pretty damned funny.
What carnage! What chaos! And all so that Satan can deliver to The Lord God Almighty “the greatest f-you daddy of all time”
Director Nathan Frankowski of “To Write Love on Your Arms” and “Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher” doesn’t have a genre or a “style” per se. So this generously-budgeted/no-“name” stars horror epic is just all over the place; never quite serious, never remotely silly enough.
Laura (Alice Ewing-Orr), an American art history student in Turin, doesn’t believe in “evil,” but she’s fascinated by images of St. Michael fighting the devil. That’s how she comes to be in the cathedral museum where The Shroud of Turin is back on public display. She’s been sketching Satan’s face on a sculpture so long she’s locked inside at closing.
That’s when the wraith (Eveline Hall) strides in and beheads the guards, allowing mugs in a G-Wagon to roll in and help her snatch the shroud.
A prologue has shown us Satan’s fall and sentence to hell, put there by St. Michael (Peter Mensah). These modern day minions have it in mind to get him out by helping Lucifer be reborn. They’ll use the DNA from the shroud to clone a Son of God for Satan.
Idiots. Only rubes and fanatics don’t realize the Shroud of Turin is fake.
But Dr. Laurents (Brian Caspe) is a man of science, someone who has been raiding crypts in this cathedral, using DNA to bring back the composer Vivaldi, painter and sculptor Michelangelo, all the best Italians. He sells the rights to raise these “Boys from Bologna” (close enough) to the super rich, who would love having a genius bear their surname.
The priest (Joe Doyle) who got Laura into this special exhibition and is killed by the wraith makes his dying wish that “St. Michael use” his body to come back to Earth and stop Team Lucifer. When he does, it’s game on.
This is no Travolta “Michael.” This is Mel Gibson’s idea of an archangel.
This movie might have been more fun had it not lurched along, with all these kidnapped prospective surrogates (including Laura) fighting to avoid insemination rape, Michael visiting a local expert who provides him with everything he needs to visit Satan in hell (flares, a torch, and a pump shotgun) and Laura’s traumatic impregnation and takeover by the strong and mighty, if not righteous, special effects fetus in her womb.
Doyle brings a little swagger to Michael, shaking his head at the sorts of econoboxes “priests” have to drive, setting off explosions like a droll, clerically-collared Bond. And Ewing-Orr, of “The Courier,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Atonement,” commits to Laura’s rage and terror like a real pro.
But Frankowski can’t quite decide how seriously to take this Veering between existential faith-based terror and trying to get Laura’s attention, only to be told in a Satanic voice coming out of the pregnant woman’s mouth, “Laura isn’t here right now,” makes for a generally unsatisfying bit of nonsense that never frightens and never quite makes it as a comedy.
Rating: R, violence, profanity
Cast: Alice Ewing-Orr, Joe Doyle, Eveline Hall, Peter Mensah, Brian Caspe and Joe Anderson.
Credits: Directed by Nathan Frankowski, scripted by Ed Alan. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:50