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Universal 1440 Entertainment, the direct to video arm of Universal Studios, is back again. They’ve given us such many years later sequels as Hard Target 2, The Car: Road to Revenge and Tales From The Hood 2 and 3. Now we have Doom: Annihilation which, to be fair, is more of a reboot of the game-inspired franchise than a sequel to 2005’s Doom.

For those not familiar with the original game, it involves scientists on one of Mars’ moons, Phobos, accidentally opening a portal to hell. One lone Space Marine is left to stop the invading demons. The 2005 film was based on DOOM 3 which got rid of most of the explicitly Satanic imagery and replaced the demons with creatures that looked like they came from a Resident Evil film. Doom: Annihilation at least adds some of that back. Writer/director Tony Giglio (Timber Falls, S.W.A.T.: Under Siege) delivers a film that still feels more like a cheap Aliens clone most of the time, though.

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A squad of UAC Marines is on its way to begin a three-year mission at a research station on Phobos. The assignment is punishment for a major fuck up on the part of one of their members. However, they find the facility seemingly deserted except for the occasional dead body. And stuff written on the walls in blood, in ancient Sumerian no less. They soon find the missing researchers, or more accurately the researchers find them. Only they’re now hyperviolent zombies.

And then the demons show up. And we learn that some of the scientists had their own agenda. And then everything literally goes to Hell…

There’s no way of getting around it, the first 15-20 minutes of Doom: Annihilation is awful. It tries to copy the beginning of Aliens, with the squad coming out of suspended animation. Interacting with each other in “amusing” ways. And then finding nobody answering when they reach their destination. The only redeeming thing about it is the ship’s computer being named Daisy, a sideways reference to Kubrick’s 2001.

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Unlike Aliens, Doom: Annihilation doesn’t give its characters any distinct personalities. They’re all fairly interchangeable, especially in their body armour. Even the usually reliable Louis Mandylor (Avengement, The Doorman) can’t do much as Chaplain, the marine turned man of the cloth. Lorina Kamburova (Day Of The Dead: Bloodline, Leatherface), a familiar face in Bulgarian shot films like this, is wasted as an equally generic scientist.

Once they get to Phobos things pick up though. The film does at least follow the basic outline of the game. We get zombies, then a rough equivalent of the game’s Imps. They don’t really look like them but they do throw fireballs. The budget sadly didn’t stretch to any of the game’s more elaborate creatures, which is a disappointment. A Cacodemon or Baron of Hell or two would have livened things up greatly. Even a swarm of Lost Souls would have been fun. But we do get exploding barrels and an improbably placed chainsaw.

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Most of Giglio’s credits have been action films, and it shows. Doom: Annihilation is rarely scary. Even when the final act goes off into Event Horizon territory, it’s more about the BFG 9000 than making you jump. What should have been an exciting action/horror film is reduced to a mechanical piece of straight-to-video filler. It’s all competently done, but very sterile.

Universal Home Entertainment will release Doom: Annihilation on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD on October 1st. There’s a Facebook page if you want more details.

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