Army of the Damned (2013)
In the weeks since my last contribution to Anythinghorror, there have been some significant changes to your Uncle Deggsy’s lifestyle. The place where I worked for over a decade fired me because I posted a harmless joke on Facebook about some of my company’s customers, a joke my manager, who had her sense of humour removed years ago to make room for that pickle up her ass) did not appreciate.
So now I’m claiming Unemployment while looking for temporary work, while also waiting to hear about placements in University so that I could finally study for a degree in English and maybe, just maybe, consider a career in adult education, teaching English or Creative Writing or something like that – but that’s a few years away. I’ve also put my house on the market, moved in full time with my girlfriend, and has become the proud Papa to the cutest Border Terrier puppy in the Multiverse. Her name is Edna, and if you don’t think she’s gorgeous, I will fight you. That’s no lie.
As for that last one about Edna, she is now old enough to see some of the awful movies that I like to moan to all of you about, and will even help me out with the reviews!
Of course, they’re not all awful. In fact, there have been a couple that have turned up that have been quite decent. Or at interesting. Personally I’d sooner watch something that was bad and interesting than good but otherwise unmemorable. But where does ARMY OF THE DAMNED fit in?
Scott first reported here last November that Tom DeNucci was getting ready to release this, his second movie as writer/director after SELF STORAGE earlier in 2013 (maybe it’s my mid-life crisis talking, but I can’t help but admire someone who’s on his second movie by the age of thirty, while I feel like I’m only just making moves towards what I want to do at age 47).
I’ve not seen SELF STORAGE, but I did get my hands on ARMY OF THE DAMNED… and glad I was that I did.
After an opening credits sequence of Polaroids of crime scenes floating down like some rejected intro to MEMENTO, we open on a car and a teenage couple making out, the girl removing her top and bra as someone unseen approaches from the outside, accompanied by ominous music. Fortunately for the couple, it’s Sheriff Bridge (Sully Erna, better known for his band Godsmack), and fortunately for us, he waited long enough for us to get a glimpse of the goods…
Bridge sends the couple on their way, more interested in the people with him, Kayla (Jackie Moore, ATLANTIC RIM), a presenter for a reality cops show, and her cameraman Dave (former N-Sync member Joey Fatone). Bridge, who’d returned to his hometown of Salem County from the big city to take over the Sheriff’s role when his father died, is slightly embarrassed that the best crimes the town could offer the pair of them is a brief topless shot from some kids. Don’t worry, Sheriff, with a name like Salem County, I’m sure it’ll offer up something good soon.
Two uniformed cops, Lawson (pro wrestler Thea Trinidad) and Carpoza (Tommy Dreamer) are called out to a mansion after Dispatch receives an alarming call. They arrive (in the dead of night, from the looks of it, though it was only late afternoon moments before), enter – and find a family butchered at the dinner table, and only moments before from the looks of it. Unable to call it in for some reason, they venture further inward, finding a mute girl in a Red Riding Hood. “Everything’s gonna be okay, honey,” Lawson reassures her. The girl just shakes her head numbly in reply. Listen to her, people…
Oh, too late – rather than take the girl out of a potentially hazardous situation, Lawson stays inside with her while Carpoza goes off alone, and both cops are turned into dog food by some unseen force, accompanied by a weird high-pitched noise and blinding light that fills the house.
When the cops don’t respond to calls, backup arrives: Bridge and the film crew, Detective Griffiths (Joe Sirani, TED), and two uniformed cops who still have a perp (Nick Principe from SUMMER OF MASSACRE, and he also played Chromeskull in LAID TO REST 2) locked up in their car.
Finding the bodies of the residents and their colleagues, they eventually discover the apparent source of the trouble, up in the attic: a man with blacked-out eyes painting the walls with blood while Italian opera plays in the background. The man mutters in Latin, but then switches to English to inform them, “The Serpent will come, the blood will flow” before slitting his own throat. Trouble over, right?
Of course it isn’t; neighbour and former cop Crazy Earl (the ever-reliable Michael Berryman) appears and informs them that Strange Shit is Afoot. He ain’t kidding, folks… the little girl turns out to have no pulse, and the dead cops have disappeared!
The initial synopsis I’d read, and the poster/DVD cover I saw, set up certain expectations, and not all of them good. To be honest, I was expecting yet another Found Footage Zombie Siege film, as generic as a hundred others I’ve born witness to. But I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a lot more to it. The suspense and uncertainty when you don’t know what’s happening is palpable, and the blood and gore is quite decent and plentiful. There’s an effective scene where the dead cops have risen, not as mindless revenants but Evil Dead-style possessed figures, and begin to ‘arm’ themselves in preparation for the cavalry arriving…
The cast is an eclectic collection of old favourites like Berryman and Tony Todd (although top-billed Todd doesn’t turn up until two-thirds of the way in as a SWAT team leader, and just plays like every overconfident police/Army guy who doesn’t believe in demons and doesn’t realise he’s in way over his head) and wrestlers and musicians, and it works a lot better than you’d expect, especially when compared to some of the novelty casting you see in SyFy and Asylum movies.
Sully Erna especially has a self-deprecating, nice guy charisma to him, putting some of the other professional actors to shame. The dialogue ranges from the risible to the hilarious, but remains serviceable throughout. And while the movie spent most of its time around the house, a possible sequel is set up to take the supernatural conflict out into the wider world.
Don’t take it too seriously; it’s mindless fun, especially when Tony Todd and his team show up to add to the body count and ramp up the tone of the movie from suspenseful to action-oriented. This is a Beer and Pizza movie to share with your buddies and is well worth your time. The movie is available on DVD and VOD, and the trailer is below:
Director: Tom DeNucci (also writer)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. And Edna.