In the horror genre, everyone knows that many subgenres exist and with some a careful and sometimes delicate balance not that easily found, such as religious based horror movies, a downright touchy subject to start with for any filmmaker. One a director needs to decide early on if they want to offend, or just go along to get along, next do they seek to make as angels fighting demons i.e. Prophecy (1999) or more a human level The Exorcist (1973) or Stigmata (1999). Basically hundreds of the films exist in the vast chasm of this subgenre, and sadly sometimes the most judgmental to critics and fans, but that’s the path director Greg A. Sager choose who previously did the movie The Devil in Me (2012). His last film included some religious elements; however, this flick goes much deeper penetrating the murky depths of purgatory and hell and for the most part fans will find some entertainment within the battle of evil in hearts, the vanity of not accepting one’s sins and the forgiveness.
An important aspect does occur, Sager makes sure to throttle the meanings of sin and innocence down to the audience, allowing them the respect to understand their own free will and moral code set forth actions with repercussions in everyday life and possibly in the afterlife, if one exists, as this movie shows. While he shows some restraint he present divine message with choice narrative scenarios, knowing all of us, the viewers and people in general truly live as sinners, and once something happens no way to take it back, unless through acceptance and even then it perhaps not enough, because fundamentally asking quietly are all sins equal, aren’t some evils greater. You decide…
First off, the film appears as new version Saw (2004) as we have a group of strangers waking up in an abandoned hospital, with no clue of how they got there, and it works to present the one-dimensional characters to the viewers. Quickly enough the action starts and one learns of the sins committed with only one seems perhaps a tad off, not clearly presented. Among them killing a person while drunk driving, drug addiction, rape, child molester, a murderer and then an abortion, it all reminds of a movie called House of Purgatory (2016), though Sager and his screenwriters Geoff Hart and A. Jaye Williams pull it off far better than that movie. Each person’s sin against humanity and God’s laws presents in flashbacks or dreamlike sequences to the viewers, with some agonizing weight, which begins to sink some of the film, a tad too ambitious. Jason Martorino (Daniel Levine) truly gives an outstanding performance, delivering his lines with a sinister richness, luring everyone in closer, and clearly toying with phrases and words of others, while Jo Jo Karume (Roger Jackson) shows a boystrous ego and tries to justify his bullying attitude, making him possibly the second person the audience tends to side against.
Visually, the film hits some above standard marks with the creation and interpretations of the devil’s demons, makes one think of the independent film Reichsfurferss, but a letdown occurs in the dialogue, we don’t have the Milton tale, or an Al Pacino using colorful tones and inflictions from The Devil’s Advocate. The vast passages of dialogue all fall flat, while story runs in straight line for the audience follows, sometimes find themselves limited by their budget and talent, as found in Kingdom Come. Yes, gore and blood exists but in the wondrous ways that horror fans want, and the religious context at times becomes muddled, yet as a whole a passable movie. Meanwhile, Sager passes up an excellent opportunity, letting a real location to speak volumes, and herein they filmed at a real abandoned mental hospital (of which since been demolished and erased from all existence, it’s not something which comes along often in a director’s career). A standard continues in horror films the cliché stereotypes, mainly wanting to represent all the demographics and something likely that viewers comfortable.
Sager’s movie had great potential for a thrilling ride, though in end it becomes filler for an early evening of entertainment, to air before then main event. While a twist comes in the movie, some might see foreshadowing early on, along with it comes a little T&A and mild violence, with many darken scenes, in the end you beg for Kingdom Come.