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Curse of Alcatraz

Directed by Daniel Zirilli

Written by Glase Lomond

Starring Alex Quinn, Jessie Camacho, Joe Jones, Candise Lakota

Produced by Daniel Zirilli

Rated R

87 minutes

**

Join us for a bit of film history this week, as “Curse of Alcatraz,” the last film ever to be shot on Alcatraz Island, slides into our DVD players. The question as always, of course, is do we want it there in the first place, or is our last chance at film from The Rock going to be a bust?

And incarcerated in the last Alcatraz film ever is a surprisingly interesting concept. Basically, a group of grad student archaeologists went to Alcatraz Island to investigate a collection of unsolved murders, when they fall victim to a curse on the island that arose from the torture and isolation that took place there. Basically, if you’ve ever seen an episode of “Ghost Hunters” on the Sci-Fi Channel, you know what’s going on here, except the hyperbole level’s been ramped up like a million percent for the sake of a movie.

Needless to say, there’ll be plenty of comely young co-eds getting attacked and lots of other folks getting chopped to bits. Which is nothing you haven’t already seen dozens of times before, but “Curse of Alcatraz” does manage to put its warmed-over plotline out with a half-decent execution and a little bit of style all its own. Which is saying something, frankly—it at least manages not to look like it’s been done half to death and that’s a step up from the common herd.

Perhaps even more interesting is how “Curse of Alcatraz” manages to take the single oldest horror movie device—the “ancient Indian burial ground”—and give it something of a new life by staging it on, of all places, Alcatraz.

The down side to “Curse of Alcatraz” is that it’s surprisingly slow of pace. Nearly half the movie goes by before there’s anything resembling an attack in the modern era, and frankly, in a horror movie that’s dependent on its plotline for entertainment and keeping things moving rather than special effects or surprise events, that’s downright unforgivable.

Though I will admit that they do manage to get some more action into the last half hour, it’s still not quite enough to salvage the boring opening.

Which leads me to the ending. The rest of the movie has been building up to this—and frankly, it’s been spending most of its time building up—so you’d expect a pretty decent payoff, right? Even though most of the destruction comes in the last twenty minutes or so, it’s still not all that exciting. Even the marginal twist ending isn’t what you’d call all that exciting either.

The special features include audio options, a commentary track, English and Spanish subtitles, a making-of featurette, cast and crew interviews, and trailers for “Curse of Alcatraz,” “Drunken Monkey,” “Dead Clowns,” and “Open Water 2: Adrift.”

All in all, “Curse of Alcatraz” had a great idea, but couldn’t manage to do very much with it that was any kind of interesting. Suffering from a blindingly slow plot and almost no effects to make things interesting, “Curse of Alcatraz” is a pretty sorry way to end an era.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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