The Devil Conspiracy
2023, R, 111 min. Directed by Nathan Frankowski. Starring Joe Doyle, Alice Orr-Ewing, Joe Anderson, Eveline Hall, Peter Mensah .
REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., Jan. 13, 2023
As someone who straddled the lines between Catholicism and horror at a young age, I was destined to fall in love with 1995's "theological film noir" The Prophecy. I’ve spent the intervening years perking up at the mention of any movies that try to capture an ongoing war between heaven and hell. And, for better and worse, Nathan Frankowski’s The Devil Conspiracy is a direct descendant in that tradition, marrying a direct-to-video narrative with a few flickers of spectacle that make the whole thing kind of worthwhile.
After countless millennia trapped in the bowels of hell, Lucifer (an unrecognizable Anderson) and his followers have finally found a way to bring about the end of days on earth. All they need is the Shroud of Turin and Laura (Orr-Ewing), the vessel for the Antichrist reborn. But when the Archangel Michael reanimates the body of a murdered priest (Doyle), the battle for heaven and hell will instead play out on Earth.
The Devil Conspiracy seems to owe its good genes to Gregory Widen, the erstwhile screenwriter whose spec scripts launched a decade of direct-to-video mainstays like Highlander and, yes, The Prophecy. This is a film with unapologetic middle school energy, where the main plot device is – and brace yourself now – Satan attempting to possess the clone of Jesus Christ as the only mortal capable of containing his full power. The screenplay also positions Michael as a religious Kyle Reese, complete with out-of-time jokes about economy cars and shotgun theatrics.
It’s all so very much, and The Devil Conspiracy can rarely decide from scene to scene if it should be a Hollywood blockbuster joke machine or unflinching attempt at religious horror. But each time the plot machinations start to spin off their axis, the film reminds us why cartoonish blockbusters like this occupy such a soft spot in our memories. Like shots of Satan’s dark-winged angels fluttering through the scorched surface of hell. Or when the beast from the Book of Revelation goes full Resident Evil and massacres a crowd of devil-worshippers with a scythe on a chain. There’s even an homage to Alice in Wonderland inspired by a bleach-based attempt at aborting, uh, Satan. Like I said, it’s a lot.
Is it good? Oh, God, no. But Frankowski proves that the dream of the Nineties is alive in Hollywood, at least when it comes to European co-productions. For those of a certain age, who cut their teeth on terrible creature features and bloated blockbusters at the turn of the century, The Devil Conspiracy will offer a kind of twisted nostalgia. And if we keep supporting movies about warring angels, who knows? Maybe someday they’ll even get it right.