The Devil Conspiracy hits theaters on Jan. 13, 2023.
Imagine if Paul W.S. Anderson taught bible study classes — that’s Nathan Frankowski’s The Devil Conspiracy. Whatever tasteless Christian drivel Kevin Sorbo is wasting his time releasing has nothing on this video gamey religious action movie that’d be the coolest screening at children’s catechism classes. Think more Legion, less Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas as screenwriter Ed Alan wages a holy war with cloaked angels, hooded demons, and dirty words because Lucifer sure as heck swore. Seeing is believing in The Devil Conspiracy, both a positive and negative “What in tarnation?” brand of horror-action Catholic epic.
Set in modern times, a satanic pharmaceutical biotech company plans to clone Jesus as a means of freeing the devil from his underworld prison — unless Archangel Michael (Peter Mensah) can stop them. However, it’s not the angelic warrior version of Michael we see wielding a flaming sword like a God of War character. Michael inhabits the body of the deceased Father Marconi (Joe Doyle), now with surging electric blue veins as Michael’s abilities burst from the mortal vessel. Michael must rescue historian artist Laura (Alice Orr-Ewing) before she’s impregnated with Jesus’ DNA and Hell’s minions inhabit the Earth.
That’s maybe half the madness?
Sorry for the “heavy” plot synopsis, but it’s necessary to comprehend The Devil Conspiracy’s tone. It’s the flavor of convoluted B-movie “blockbuster” that feels at home around the 2010s with The Last Witch Hunter or Seventh Son. Czech Republic sets are frequently impressive — from blessed art galleries to mountaintop corporate strongholds — after an introduction in Lucifer’s stormily desolate domain (Michael’s evil brother is transformatively played under coverall makeup by Joe Anderson). Frankowski isn’t directing a comedy, but there’s a sense of humor about everything because of how glorified and sometimes goofy scenarios become – like how Lucifer torments Father Marconi when his chemical-spiked water breaks (roll with it).
Everything about The Devil Conspiracy is extra. Joe Doyle’s performance shifts from timid priest to holy Terminator runs through ‘80s action stereotypes as he snarks away bullet wounds and full-sprints after speeding cars. Horror elements are drenched in practical gore as swinging blades decapitate, dismember, and baptize newborn prodigies with blood. Science fiction influences invade womanhood as clone mothers are selected for fertility trials like some sterilized dystopian breeding clinic. You’ll get possessions, snarling creatures, and biblical lore around the Shroud of Turin — all delivered with the deftness of Anderson’s Resident Evil franchise (the latter films) or his Monster Hunter adaptation.
Of course, “fun” doesn’t always translate to perfectly crafted films. The Raid movies are immaculate buffets of brutality — Gerard Butler action blockbusters are fun.
The Devil Conspiracy tests patience at almost two hours, and unintentional jokiness detracts from the suspense on screen. Frankowski doesn’t shy away from Christian mythology that propels a blasphemous war, but sometimes those footsteps in the sand guiding our story seem to vanish or meander off course. Aesthetically, ideologically, and tonally there’s an overwhelming amount to take in. Some might say too much because we’re robbed of longer durations where Peter Mensah wears his Michael crown. For all the genre hybridization, The Devil Conspiracy can get lost in its indulgences and at 110 minutes, there’s no breezy demeanor.