FILM REVIEW: Tom DeNucci’s ‘Army of the Damned’

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Official artwork for Army of the Damned, which was filmed entirely in Cranston. Credit: Woodhaven Films
It’s a new year and you know what that means: a new movie from East Greenwich based Woodhaven Films. In less than four years, this local production company has consistently turned out horror film after horror film – each better than the last.

In January, Woodhaven released their fourth movie entitled Army of the Damned, which was directed by Tom DeNucci. Born in Cranston, DeNucci has been with Woodaven from the beginning – appearing in Inkubus (2011) alongside horror icon Robert Englund. Since then, he has moved behind the camera. Last September, DeNucci wrote, directed and starred in the horror comedy Self Storage, which we reviewed here.

Although Self Storage was a fun movie, there were some shortcomings, which wasn’t surprising considering it was DeNucci’s first time directing. Luckily for DeNucci, and movie fans, the local filmmaker has worked out some of the kinks in his latest film.

The story

Like Self Storage before it, AOTD doesn’t rely on an intricate plot – nor does it have to. The movie centers around the filming of a reality television series – similar to Cops – where host Kayla (Jackie Moore) and her trusty cameraman Dave (Joey Fatone) are chronicling a day in the life of a small town cop named Bridge (Sully Erna). Although the shoot is uneventful at first, things kick into high gear when the group responds to a call at a nearby home.

Once inside the house, all hell breaks loose as Bridge and his team battle a mysterious supernatural being determined to possess he and his fellow officers – turning them into an "army of the damned." In addition to battling this unrelenting force, Bridge and his team are also at odds with Kayla and Dave who are intent on capturing all the action on film.

DeNucci, who also wrote the script, doesn’t try to make the story more sophisticated than it needs to be, and keeps it straightforward throughout the movie. That said, the inclusion of a reality TV element does put a unique spin on the average supernatural horror film.

The performances

Anchoring the cast of AOTD are horror veterans Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, The Devil’s Rejects) and Tony Todd (Candyman, The Rock). Berryman especially shines in his performance as Earl, an endearing ex-cop who is all too familiar with the mysterious entity plaguing Bridge and his crew. The role is a nice change of pace for Berryman, who typically portrays crazed villains. 

Todd, who is best remembered for The Candyman series, has a small, but effective part as a SWAT team leader. Todd doesn’t show up until the later half of the film, but he still makes the most of his screen time showcasing his trademark charisma.

Godsmack front man and Massachusetts native Sully Erna is also quite good in his portrayal of Bridge. AOTD marks the first starring role for the rock singer, but he certainly manages to hold his own with Berryman and Todd. Jackie Moore is adequate as the assertive TV host, but perhaps a veteran actress with more gravitas might have been more suitable for the role.

As for the supporting cast, Joey Fatone (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Inkubus) and Warwick native Nick Principe (Self Storage, Laid to Rest) particularly stand out. Both actors provide the bulk of the movie’s comic relief, and do so quite effectively. Rounding out the supporting cast are local actors Tom Paolino and Joe Sirani; professional wrestlers Tommy Dreamer and Thea Trinidad; and former Baywatch star David Chokachi.

Room for improvement

The one major area where AOTD is lacking is its musical score. There are a couple of Godsmack songs in the film, which work well during the action sequences, but the original music composition falls flat. A gripping original score is vital for any movie, but it’s especially important in the horror genre. An effective horror score not only keeps the audience engaged, it’s also able to elicit emotions and create a mood. Unfortunately for AOTD, it's score achieves none of the above. A more appropriate score could have helped build tension throughout the film and prepared the viewer to be scared.

The final verdict

Ultimately, AOTD succeeds in being a fun horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Notwithstanding several shortcomings, DeNucci has crafted an enjoyable film that is a nice addition to the independent horror genre. Additionally, AOTD illustrates that DeNucci has grown as a filmmaker and makes the prospect of a new film all the more appealing.

Rating: 3 out 5 stars

Army of the Damned is currently available on iTunes, Video on Demand, and Amazon.com. Look for it at your local Redbox in the near future. For more information visit the film’s Facebook page.

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