THE DEVIL CONSPIRACY: A Transcendent Elevator Pitch that Dishevels in the Details

One thing that no one can take away from The Devil’s Conspiracy, opening in theaters this weekend, is that’s wild, man.

The film’s premise involves a elite Satanic biotech cabal who have unlocked the secrets of DNA, cloning history’s greatest figures — Vivaldi and Michelangelo, for example — to peddle to eager, ultra-wealthy families.

But beneath the surface, a greater design awaits, for their arcane ambition is to steal the Shroud of Turin and clone the DNA of Jesus Christ — as a vessel for the re-emergence of Satan, currently imprisoned in Hell. Opposing them is the Archangel Michael, who banished Lucifer from Heaven and remains faithful to the Almighty.

I’m admittedly a mark for films like this stuff; I like to get crazy with films that deal with religious horror, demonic or satanic forces, and spiritual warfare, so it was with eagerness that I checked out the new film, directed by Nathan Frankowski.

The film’s trailer and marketing heavily feature familiar Ghanaian character actor Peter Mensah (300, Spartacus), whose regal visage is perfectly cast as the Archangel Michael. I don’t think I could’ve picked someone better for the role.

Which is kind of a shame when you watch the movie, because he’s not in it very much. Michael’s spirit possesses the body of priest murdered by the baddies (Joe Doyle), and it’s this version of the character that we spend most of the story with.

Also wrapped up in the tale is Laura (Alice Orr-Ewing), a kidnapped woman who is forcibly impregnated as the carrier of the Jesus-devil-baby, undergoing a torturous nightmare from which there seems to be no escape.

It’s a film that makes some capital-C choices, which are equally its salvation and damnation. A lot of the wild ideas are enjoyably surprising and make it fun to watch, but they can also make it hard to take the story seriously.

Sound design is one of those things most of us don’t about a lot, but we notice when it’s lacking. This is a film that probably would play a lot better if the sound game were a little more suitable. Some fun soundtrack choices aside (props for the use of “Send Me an Angel”), this movie is not easy on the ears with droning background music, loud screeching jump-scares, and cheesy demon voices which all add up to a soundscape that cheapens and undercuts an otherwise pretty remarkably crazy movie.

The film feels like a lost production from Dario Argento or Michele Soavi which is a bit damning with faint praise, because I don’t mean the classic era when they churned out a parade of masterpieces. More like something from 2004, with a slightly tacky sheen (and the Goblin guys or Ennio Morricone weren’t available). There are cool concepts and sometimes you get a glimpse of the old mastery, but mostly it’s just kind of silly and a little underwhelming.

That said, one thing this film does is consistently is go over the top and serve up some wild moments and ideas, which made me laugh for their sheer unexpectedness.

The Devil Conspiracy opens in theaters Friday, January 13.

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