Now this one's going to be a tricky flick to review, and here's why: If I go into a lot of details about the plot or rattle off a list of movies that The Passage borrows (and semi-steals) from, then I'm spoiling the whole package for anyone who wants to see the film. And even though I didn't exactly adore the flick, I certainly wouldn't think of ruining the thing for anyone. Suffice to say that any horror fan worth his salt will figure out where The Passage is headed after only about 25 minutes -- and then it goes precisely there. The scenery is handsome and the screenplay's not half-bad, but there's always something to be said for a little originality, and unfortunately that's one thing that The Passage lacks. Big time.

Stephen Dorff and Neil Jackson play a pair of thinly-drawn buddies who are spending some time in Morocco for a vague-yet-upsetting reason. (I'm not spoiling anything by saying that they're getting over a sad tragedy together.) But when Luke (Dorff) meets up with the stunningly beautiful Zahara (Sarai Givaty), his mopiness subsides for just a few minutes. So imagine our hero's excitement after Zahara invites him on an overnight trip to a far-away hotel. (Getting the clues yet?) Meanwhile, Adam (Jackson) stays behind and plans to meet up with the couple the next morning.

Needless to say, things don't even remotely go according to plan.


The problem here is not with the actors, the visuals or the dialog; it's with the stunningly familiar plot-line. Take away the lovely Moroccan setting and I guarantee you've already seen this movie, although first-time director Mark Heller (to his credit) is more interested in (slowly) amping up the tension than he is in delivering obvious shocks and big dollops of gore. Dorff and Jackson (he also wrote the screenplay) strike a solid enough chemistry together, and Ms. Givaty delivers a very fine performance -- but all of these positive components are used in the service of a very basic genre premise that's been done and re-done to death by now. Plus, like many of its ilk, The Passage seems to offer no other message than "Don't go to other countries, because foreigners are evil."

Still, and all things considered, The Passage is a well-shot, reasonably fast-paced and periodically compelling little chiller. The title refers to a hidden passage that leads to a massive catacombs which houses ... well, I almost just spoiled it all over again. Odds are you won't be able to track this one down until some distributor snags it for a direct-to-video release, and that's probably where it belongs. Fans of the genre will find The Passage to be an adequately enjoyable weekend rental (or cable flick), but certainly not much more than that.