Studio: Screen Media Darkside
Director: Tom DeNucci
Writer: Tom DeNucci
Producer: Chad A. Verdi, Gino Pereira, David Gere, Seth Rosenblit
Stars: Tony Todd, Michael Berryman, Sully Erna, Joey Fatone, Jackie Moore, David Chokachi, Nick Principe, Tom Paolino, Tommy Dreamer, Thea Trinidad, Maria Kanellis, Jessica Lussier
A small town police force with a reality TV crew in tow battles demonic possession at a horrific crime scene.
One thing is certain whenever opening credits begin with “A Chad A. Verdi Film” and that is that the movie will be both written and directed by someone other than Chad A. Verdi. Jason Blum may be the only contemporary horror movie producer who can lay claim to his projects feeling unified despite different filmmakers at the helm. Yet even he does not undercut Oren Peli or James Wan by putting his signature front and center on the “Paranormal Activity” or “Insidious” movies.
It can be argued that anyone who ponies up the dough to produce a feature can do whatever s/he wants with the movie and its credit attribution. And perhaps the young upstarts making the Woodhaven Production Company movies are just thankful for the opportunity, negating any desire to question the stake that Chad A. Verdi claims. But until his movies demonstrate a pattern other than the current one of having threadbare premises, uneven acting, and second-rate technical execution, maybe it would be best for Mr. Verdi to curb his eagerness for spotlight hogging.
Though if those elements are indeed the Chad A. Verdi formula, then “Army of the Damned” is certainly one of his productions. Should Woodhaven-produced features continue down this path, “A Chad A. Verdi Film” will be a permanent disclaimer to stop watching the movie immediately.
“Cops” ripoff “The Force” comes to sleepy Salem County with its attractive host and its one-man crew. Either the film took the lazy route with creating in-camera graphics, or “The Force” has a terrible camera operator. Interior. Exterior. Daytime. Nighttime. No matter the setting, the lens exposure is always set at F2.8/3DB. It could be that “professional” cameraman Dave is too preoccupied with sloppy focus and unsteady shots to notice. Besides, there is little worth recording in a Podunk town where breaking up domestic disturbances and Lover’s Lane canoodling constitutes a typical day for law enforcement.
Until two officers take a call leading them to a house where demonic souls possess dead bodies and attack the living. The how and why are unclear as the plot alternates between confusing and boring. Both effects lead to an audience mindset that does not know or does not care what is taking place. The closest the story comes to clarification is a rambling dream vision sequence involving a man prophesying doom before slitting his own throat while an opera aria flavors the hokeyness with false importance.
The confusing portion of the film includes needless scenes and pointless visuals. “Army of the Damned” opens with a montage of fluttering photographs featuring indecipherable images underneath title cards. The first scene then involves a girl baring breasts to her teenage boyfriend. One stone kills two birds in this instance by filling a nudity quotient and by giving a cheap thrill to the producer’s son, since Chad Verdi, Jr. plays the boyfriend.
The boring side of things stems from innumerable scenes of police officers slow-stepping through dark rooms pointing guns and flashlights. Enough time is spent sweeping light beams and gun barrels back and forth to rival an entire season of “The X-Files.”
Unexpectedly, the best performance in the film comes from Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna in the lead role as Sheriff Bridge. Not to take away from his surprising star turn, but it is easier to rise to the top when the rest of the cast is culled from a stable of ex-WWE wrestlers (Tommy Dreamer), ex-pop singers (Joey Fatone), and ex-porn stars (Jasmin St. Claire). It also helps that Erna’s character is the lone police officer in the bunch that is not a screw-loose gun nut, a starstruck goofball, or a chest-bumping meathead incapable of speaking without curse words.
When the standout performance comes from the actor with the least amount of professional experience, that is a cause for concern rather than celebration. Unless the finger points at stunt casting for favoring recognizable names over recognizable talent, the blame for such a scattered range of performances falls on the director for not wrangling it all together.
The movie’s idea of comic relief is a full-sleeved version of Mayberry’s Otis complaining from the back of a squad car about the need to relieve himself. And when one of the possessed corpses turns into a stripper who gyrates for the camera while a heavy metal soundtrack growls, one wonders how seriously “Army of the Damned” takes itself to begin with.
Out of gas before the engine turns over, “Army of the Damned” takes as much time to develop as the Grand Canyon and includes holes just as deep. While one of those two turned into a national monument, the other became an empty wasteland.
Review Score: 30