Cinematic Releases: The Devil Conspiracy (2023) - Reviewed

Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films
It has been a good while since a truly nutty cultish faith-based flick with Old Testament wrath of God type imagery being conjured up via shoddily rendered CGI crept into multiplexes without warning.  While fare like God’s Not Dead, God’s Club and Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas mostly felt like low budget lectures that got increasingly strange and silly as they went on, ones like C Me Dance mixed in supernatural elements involving human characters fending off the devil himself clad in cheap makeup and contact lenses. 
For every Risen or Paul, Apostle of Christ (two genuinely good examples) which are sadly few and far between in the faith-based subgenre, there are movies like Nathan Frankowski’s jaw-droppingly certifiable The Devil Conspiracy.  A movie that wants to be End of Days by way of Gods of Egypt which ends up cranking up the insanity meter higher than an Ovidio G. Assonitis flick, The Devil Conspiracy (let’s get this out of the way) is not good or well made per se but it is one of the wildest things you’re likely to see in a theater at all this year. 

In the simplest plot description one can offer on this crazy thing, a biotech company has figured out a way to clone the DNA of renowned historical figures with only a few speckles at the scientific team’s disposal.  Operating covertly within the company is a cabal of Satanists on a secret mission to steal the Shroud of Turin to clone Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice to Satan.  
Meanwhile, deep within the bowels of a dark blue Hell itself we see Archangel Michael (Peter Mensah looking like he walked off the set of Gods of Egypt) duking it out with Lucifer (Joe Anderson).  But when it becomes apparent the Shroud of Turin has gone missing, American art scholar Laura (Alice Orr-Ewing) is kidnapped and local priest Father Marconi (Joe Doyle) is murdered by the cabal, it is up to Archangel Michael to possess and resurrect the body of Father Marconi to track down the Shroud before its too late.
Written and produced by Ed Alan in his first screenplay, The Devil Conspiracy is like an unholy union between PureFlix and Vinegar Syndrome, meshing together the God-fearing with the patently absurd and even transgressive.  The most ridiculous film played with a completely straight face in some time, featuring everything from an artificially inseminated ‘new Jesus, a better Jesus’ to a demonically possessed pregnant woman spraying acid from her crotch onto the hero’s face followed by the line ‘my water broke’, The Devil Conspiracy is stunningly batshit.  The kind of film people find out about via word of mouth rather than any kind of promotional efforts behind this Samuel Goldwyn Films release, The Devil Conspiracy almost chases its tail frenetically in terms of how many weird ideas it splatters onscreen.

For being a rare case of basically a faith-based action-horror movie that embraces camp almost as a high art, The Devil Conspiracy is reasonably well made and acted including some set pieces and staging sure to remind some viewers of films like The Devils or more recently Final Prayer.  The cinematography from Czechoslovakian director of photography Milan Chadima (Hostel; Grindhouse) though largely dimly lit is startlingly good for this kind of low budget material.  The original score by Anne-Kathrin Dern isn’t anything to write home about but it gets the job done.  The ones who really shine in this however are the actors who really sink their teeth into their roles before gleefully tearing away at them with relish.
Alice Orr-Ewing, for example, starts out as the prototypical resourceful heroine who gradually undergoes a startling physiological transformation as she gradually succumbs to demonic forces.  Joe Doyle is mostly good in an Eric Bana type of heroic role.  The standout performance here goes to the witchy Eveline Hall who is Satan’s most loyal disciple who chews up the scenery with relish.  The film even manages to work in overqualified actor James Faulkner who is no stranger to theological movies, having played the titular Paul, Apostle of Christ as well as appearing in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci’s Demons.  Ordinarily poor acting would go more hand in hand with the film’s outlandish concepts but because it is played straight, we the audience aren’t always necessarily sure how seriously to take the film altogether.

I can’t tell if this is a dumping ground movie, a parody, a dark comedy, a horror film or a Christploitation flick.  Sort of being a mixture of all of the above, one thing is for sure The Devil Conspiracy isn’t really scary but it will make you feel an invisible question mark forming over your cranium.  As it went on, there were times when I felt my hands slapping against my head in sheer disbelief.  If it is a faith-based movie, it surely is one of the goriest and most violent in some time replete with heads sliced neatly in half, impaling, emaciation and excreted bodily fluids.  A movie with everything but the kitchen sink after someone left the blender running for far too long, The Devil Conspiracy is the kind of film you seek out for camp over quality, zaniness over coherence and to marvel at in sheer amazement that such a thing exists at all.  Think of it as our generation’s Beyond the Door.

--Andrew Kotwicki