Promising madness in leagues with GODS OF EGYPT, what we get is something that feels like a bad clone of THE PROPHECY
The Devil Conspiracy opens in theaters this Friday the 13th, and from the trailer, it looked like the Gods of Egypt approach to Christianity. Sadly, this is not the case.
The trailer delivers a great hook. Satan, looking for a body that could give him a new life, has his minions use DNA from the Shroud of Turin (the shroud Christ was supposedly wrapped in after his crucifixion) to clone a vessel that could contain a god in a man’s body. Effectively, Satan would possess a clone of Jesus to walk the earth.
I was not only intrigued by the premise, but really enamored with the visuals of the trailer and how it added an almost fantasy/sci-fi spin to Christian mythology. And while that is kind of the case, this aspect makes up at most a prologue at the beginning of The Devil Conspiracy.
Instead of Gods of Egypt, what we get is something more akin to The Prophecy. While that film is pretty damn great, it was more of a low-budget approach to some high-concept ideas. It essentially worked because Christopher Walken is such a compelling actor, he can make you believe just about anything.
Here, not so much. The winged angel in the trailer spends most of the film possessing the body of a dead priest played by Joe Doyle, an actor who really fails to engage in the role when he is taken over by Michael, the “Hound of Heaven.” His rather angry, bland, fish-out-of-water approach is something that kneecaps the film, especially opposite the much more competent Alice Orr-Ewing. Orr-Ewing plays Laura, a sort of stereotypical character in these faith-based narratives who has a believable reason for turning their back on God and just needs to be won back over to see the light.
Laura has quite the journey here: Not only does she witness her priest friend get killed by a satanic cult, but she is then kidnapped and non-consensually artificially inseminated with a fertilized egg containing a clone of Jesus. It’s like a sci-fi Rosemary’s Baby (but without all the great subtext). As one could imagine, this drives her to some pretty intense and dark places, and Orr-Ewing delivers a chaotic and emotionally-charged performance.
Doyle, however, just never reaches those heights, and neither do most of the actors around Orr-Ewing. Their performances feel like they lean too hard into the melodrama, which is a common fault of faith-based cinema. This leads me to believe that this film was possibly retooled for a mass audiences, with a bunch of violence added when it was deemed just too weird for the Christian cinema circuit.
I am not even going to touch the fact that this all exists in a world that questions the belief in God and Satan, one where there is a literal elevator to Hell (or “Hellavator,” if you will). Like, you can just go there, and it’s staffed by demons no less, because how else would Satan come to earth? It’s like something out of Looney Tunes.
Running at nearly two hours, The Devil Conspiracy really makes you feel that length after a rather taught first act. It really struggles to get through its lackluster second act and a third that has no real resolution; they nowhere match that dizzying first act, where the ideas just flow like wine. It’s not clever, and we see lots of folks die at the end, but Devil Conspiracy never really gets as interesting as its core idea, with an ultimate conclusion that feels like a cheat. There are sparks of some really great moments, like the satanic cult also cloning great historical figures and making children that are then sold off on the black market to rich couples. I loved their tagline, “Children you could actually be proud of.”
Sadly, I was disappointed in The Devil Conspiracy. It felt like it had a bunch of interesting and downright unique ideas, but couldn’t really get any to stick, let alone stick that landing. The majority of the performances honestly felt rather flat compared to Orr-Ewing, who is tasked with shouldering most of the film. Coupled with questionable logic and stagnant performances, The Devil Conspiracy never really manages to deliver that sort of Gods of Egypt madness you would expect from watching the trailer; maybe a few glimpses, but nothing that sustains the runtime. If the movie was 90 minutes or less, it might even be worth a watch for some of the crazier moments alone, like when Laura drinks bleach to try to trigger a miscarriage of her Jesus fetus. But the meandering plot and tacked-on conclusion just never really justify your time in the theater.