The Damned Thing (2006)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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Overall Rating 52%
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Ranked #6,915
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The Damned Thing is the apocalyptic tale of a monstrous force that devastates Sheriff Kevin Reddle's family and his small Texas town. Sheriff Reddle thinks there is a connection between this mysterious, invisible force which made his father kill his mother back in 1981, and he sets out to uncover and stop the so-called "Damned Thing" before it decimates his whole town by forcing the residents to kill each other and themselves. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: June 12, 2009
I keep wanting to give Tobe Hooper the benefit of the doubt, and I keep waiting to see that one film that I can point to and say "See? Tobe still has it!" After all, here is a guy that burst onto the horror scene with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and he then turned around and gave us Poltergeist less than a decade later. A solid ninety-nine percent of the filmmakers who ever picked up a camera failed to make that one film that would put their names in the history books, but Tobe? He did it twice. That's saying something, but the truth is that the man simply hasn't done anything great in over twenty years. The Damned Thing, to me, seemed to be the film that would finally break his streak of mediocrity, but that wasn't the case; in fact, it did nothing but reaffirm my belief that he simply got extremely lucky twice in his career.

This Masters of Horror entry begins in a small Texas town back in the mid-eighties, where we are quickly introduced to a normal family having dinner. Unbeknownst to daddy, mother dearest has a surprise in store: it's his birthday, and she's baked him a cake to celebrate. She excuses herself from the dinner table and calls for her son to join her in the kitchen, and as they're lighting the candles on the cake, our loving father enters the room with a shotgun. He gives his wife two to the chest for her troubles before chasing his son out into a nearby field, where the kid proceeds to climb a tree in a valiant effort to hide from his now-homicidal father. Just as his dad spots him and is about to shoot him, an unseen force pushes the dad up against a truck, turns him upside down, and proceeds to rip out his entrails through his torso. Ouch.

Moving ahead in time by about twenty-four years, we find that that kid is now Sheriff Kevin Reddle (Sean Patrick Flanery), and we also discover that he's still living at the house that used to belong to his parents. We also discover that he's no longer living with his wife Dina (Marisa Coughlan) due to marital issues stemming from his mental problems, but this will soon be the least of his worries as whatever "damned thing" caused his father to pick up that shotgun and turn it on his own family is back in town. It begins by causing some of the townsfolk to go on murderous rampages and kill themselves in the grisliest ways imaginable, and Reddle knows that it's only a matter of time before this thing comes after him. Watch for a cameo by Ted Raimi as a priest who owns the movie every time he shows his face.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here: the ending of this film was flat out awful, and that was what really hurt the overall experience in my view. I've never read Ambrose Bierce's short story that this film was based on, but judging by the synopsis written over at Wikipedia, this movie was a very loose adaptation to say the least. I understand the need to change a few things here and there for a film adaptation, but tacking on an ending that is complete and utter bullshit? That's not needed, and in fact, it's downright retarded. This ending should have never made it past the bar that it was undoubtedly conceived at, most likely after the writers had had one too many, and it most certainly should have never made it into the final product.

It's really a shame that the ending of this film left me with such a bad taste in my mouth, because everything leading up to that was damned good. This is an intriguing storyline and it leaves you genuinely wanting to know what is going to happen in this town, and when all hell finally breaks loose towards the end of the running time, you won't be able to turn away. Again, it's just a crying shame that we got one of the worst endings that I have ever seen to cap it all off, and personally, that is one surefire way to kill a recommendation.

As far as the acting goes, all of the main actors are serviceable - nobody is great, nobody is mediocre, but they all do their jobs and will leave you with nothing to cheer or gripe about. There are two exceptions to that statement, with the first being Ted Raimi. Why is this man not getting bigger roles? I've seen him in minor cameos on numerous occasions, but this film is just further proof that his brother wasn't the only kid in the family with talent. Ted only gets a handful of scenes in which to shine, but he easily stole each and every last one of those scenes. The payoff in the confession booth? Pure genius, and very few men could have pulled that off the way that he did.

I said that there were two exceptions, and the other comes to us from the other end of the spectrum. I always try to avoid calling out child actors in reviews, because let's face it, most kids of that age can't lie to their parents, much less give a believable performance. Stinking up a scene is one thing, but Alex Ferris, the kid who played Kevin Reddle's son, took that one step further. This kid flat out ruined every scene that he popped up in due to the fact that I couldn't stop laughing whenever he appeared on screen. That would be fine if this were a comedy, but he kept appearing in pivotal moments of a horror flick... scenes where you're supposed to be on the edge of your seat, not on the brink of tears from laughing so hard. Why was I laughing so hard? Well, the kid has one expression to his name, and he used it in every scene: a facial expression that just screams "Oh no, I just shit my pants." Time after time and scene after scene, he'd show up with that same goofy look on his face, and it really hurt the film far more than mere bad acting ever could.

In better hands, The Damned Thing could have been a great movie - maybe even a classic. In Tobe Hooper's hands, it turned out to be one more in a long line of disappointments. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a horrible movie as the first half of the film sets up a great storyline and truly sucks you in, but it's that last half that kills any chance at me giving it a recommendation. 5/10.
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