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DC Showcase (Part 14): Constantine: The House Of Mystery

Hello, my friends.  Even though the dust has settled upon a devastating conflict, we’re not quite done with a certain reality yet.  After all, the choices we make can have negative consequences and never will that notable saying be more truthful for a familiar bloke.  On that note, I welcome you all back to another entry of…

For this review, we’ll be making one last trip into the DC Animated Movie Universe (a.k.a. the New 52 Animated Universe) in order for us to learn about the ramification of one Hellblazer’s fateful choice.  Little will he know of the limitless ways in which his seemingly-innocent decision will come back to haunt him.  As such, we’ll be delving into the singular tale known as…

Originally released on May 3, 2022 for Blu-Ray, this capstone to the DC Showcase’s third wave had Matt Peters in the director’s chair and Ernie Altbacker penning its script.  So, what kind of twists and turns will our favorite working-class occult spellcaster come across?  Let’s open the book on this particular DC Universe one last time and find out.

We open with a recap of the last entry where Darkseid has ravaged the whole world.  Although our heroes ultimately managed to prevail over him, there were so many lives lost among both the populace and their own kind.  With the planet now on the destructive brink, one of the surviving figures named John Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan) had an idea.  In particular, he figured out a way in order to make sure that this horrid event would never happen in the first place.  From there, he convinces the Flash to run fast enough in order to create another Flashpoint while he guides the Scarlet Speedster with his own magic in order to change certain events and ensure that Darkseid never discovers their world.  Not only that, but he’ll suffer whatever consequences should follow from this act.  As such, the Flash dashes off to carry out this act as a bright light proceeds to engulf the entire planet.  During all of this, John has been narrating as he also mentions how this was the first noble thing he’s ever done, yet it would be something that would greatly cost him.

Following the title card, we shift to Constantine suddenly finding himself within an unusual hallway with a large number of doors.  After coming across a room of M.C. Escher-esque stairs, he ultimately enters a room where several notable figures are celebrating his 50th Birthday.  Among them is Chas Chandler (voiced by Damian O’Hare) and Jason Blood (voiced by Ray Chase).

From there, Zatanna (voiced by Camilla Luddington) comes in much to John’s stunning amazement and assures him that they’re all here to celebrate with their loved ones, as well as “having made it through it all”, with even Richie (also voiced by Ray Chase) agreeing (though mainly about the beer).  Constantine then admits his confusion since he thought that she recently died, yet she assures him that she hasn’t.  From there, she reveals that they also have their own children as both Jack and Della (both voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) come in to give their father a good night kiss.

Just then, Jack starts incessantly coughing as John tells Zatanna to get some water for their child.  Just then, Della also begins to cough at a similar disturbing rate.  Suddenly, both kids cough up some blood and pass out.  Constantine tells Jason to call up a doctor, but Blood, Zatanna and everyone else also begin to violently cough before they all hack up some blood and collapse onto the floor.

John cries out for some help before everyone around him eerily get back onto their feet.  Constantine thinks that this is a sick joke, but he soon finds out that his children have become demons who tell him that all of this real and it’s also what he deserves.  From there, they leap up and begin biting away at John’s neck.  He manages to throw them off, but he then finds out that Zatanna and the rest of his friends have also become demons before they leap in to kill him.

Suddenly, Constantine finds himself back in the same hallway that he started in.  He soon hears some weird scratching as he heads out to investigate before he winds up at another door and heads inside, where he discovers his male friends at a table waiting to play some cards with him.  As John joins them, a long-haired player named Gary Lester (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) asks for the name of a deceased guy that they “soul casted” in order to have him perform a comedy act, to which Chas says that it was Edwin Tiggley.  Ultimately through John and Richie’s explanation, the temporary resurrection didn’t work out as originally hoped.

Suddenly, Constantine notices that his playing cards have changed its suits into 666-styled pentagrams before he discovers that his friends have all transformed into demons.  With Jason though, he’s become Etrigan as he uses his sword to cut off John’s hand.  As Constantine keels over in pain, the demons proceed to surround him before Etrigan finishes him off with a swing of his sword.

Suddenly, John is back in the same spot within the hallway as before.  With the strange scratching echoing around him, he demands for whoever’s behind it to show themselves.  After using a special monocle and finding nothing entirely unordinary with it, he preps a spell and approaches a room in order to fire it at whatever is on the other side of the door.

To his surprise, he finds Zatanna waiting for him on a bed wearing only a bra and underwear.  Ultimately, he strips down and engages in a make-out session with her.  During this, he keeps asking her about their children, but she assures him that they don’t have any kids of their own.  However, he’s finally ready to have some with her.  Just as they’re about to have some sex, he mentions how he’s certain that she recently introduced him to their children.  Suddenly, Zatanna transforms into a winged demon as she angrily murders him by snapping his neck.

From there, Constantine finds himself outside of the bedroom as he decides not to go in.  With the weird scratching noise constantly echoing throughout, he soon finds himself going into doors that only take him into the same hallway.  As such, he decides to check out the dizzying stairs.  He manages to navigate his way through them before he arrives at the main entryway.  However, the front doors are locked and aren’t able to be budged.  He then grabs a lamp and tries to smash a window, but he discovers that it and the other window (which shatters itself shortly afterwards) are boarded up.  As such, he uses a spell to blast the front doors off as he finds the House of Mystery sitting in front of a barren wasteland of leafless trees, fog and puddles.

He then dashes off to find the culprit behind all of this, but he suddenly runs into an invisible barrier.  After he summons another fireball, he soon discovers that the barrier surrounds the whole area.  After he reaches a puddle, he assumes that it’s an illusion trick as he preps a circle in order to finally learn who’s responsible for this predicament.  From there, he sets his spell in motion as he plunges into the puddle, only to discover a universe on the other side.  Suddenly, he gets pulled back into his current reality by the demonic Zatanna who proceeds to mutilate him.

John then suddenly finds himself at a dinner table with Zatanna, Chas and his friends before he excuses himself in order to use the bathroom.  Once he arrives, he finds some lipstick and recreates the same familiar circle over a bathtub.  Despite Richie attempting to check up on him, Constantine still attempts to cast his spell.  Unfortunately, neither the bathtub or the sink is able to bring up any water.  However, he does find some water within the toilet as he recreates the same circle underneath the seat’s lid before plunging his head in.

He then oversees how he wound up in his current situation in the first place as his past self is being confronted by the Spectre (voiced by Lou Diamond Phillips), who’s about to sentence him to spend the rest of time trapped within the House of Mystery.  Spectre explains that this sentence is in response to John’s attempt to change his world’s past, especially since it’s created “a tidal wave of disturbance”.  Constantine says that he was completely unaware of his act being against the rules and that everyone else should know of the grave price they’ll end up paying if they should follow suit.  As such, John wants him to announce his sentence.  Spectre complies before Constantine eggs him on about becoming a town-crier, to which the nigh-omnipotent figure responds by flicking him towards his eternal punishment.  Suddenly, the present John gets pulled back into reality by the demonic representations of his friends before they maim him.

With him now fully-aware, Constantine proceeds to narrate about “the memory wipes and confusion spells” wearing off much sooner.  However, it would also result in him getting viciously murdered by the demonic figures that resembled his lifetime pals and heroic allies.  Not only that, but the Spectre had a vengeful spell in place where John would be reset following his bloody end.  Even when Constantine did try to fight back, he would still wind up getting killed by at least one of those not-so friendly demons.  As such, he would get ripped to shreds in regular and even “comical” ways.

Eventually, he managed to reach the vast wasteland while those same demons pursued him.  Even though he would continually get mauled to death, each newer resurrection saw him make some progress before he ultimately disintegrated them with a successful spell.  Unfortunately, all that hard work ended up for naught due to a tree coming to life and eating him.

During a montage of him ultimately losing to the demons, John narrates about the House of Mystery existing outside of the regular flow of time.  As such, his sentence ended up lasting for several blood-filled centuries.  During one of his attempts to evade the familiar demons’ bloody wrath though, he would be met upon by another familiar demon as Nergal (also voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) suddenly arrives and captures him.

From there, it’s revealed that Constantine has been telling the entire preceding tale to said demon.  He says that he still stands by his choice since the world was in utter disarray and that there was hardly anything left for anyone to lose there.  Nergal intends on proving to John that he still has something to lose as he heats a poker within the fireplace in order to properly torture him.  The demon then mentions that he heard about the punishment that the Spectre had put Constantine under, to which he exclaims that he couldn’t allow that since he owns John’s soul and wants to be the one who makes him suffer.  Despite the bloody abuse potentially awaiting him, Constantine acts calm about it as Nergal grabs some hedge-clippers in preparation for some eternal torment.

Suddenly, the whole house shakes as John tells the demon that he’s not the only one who wants to torture him.  From there, a female demon named Beelzebub (also voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) bursts in.  From there, she’s surprised to see another demon who’s about to torture Constantine since she also has claim to John’s soul.  Nergal is stunned to learn that the Hellblazer has sold his own soul twice, but both of them soon find themselves in even further bewilderment as another demon named Ashox (also voiced by Damian O’Hare) also shows up with his own claim to Constantine’s soul.

While the three demons argue amongst themselves as to who should get the sole right to eternally mutilate him, John discreetly uses a spell to free himself from his snake bonds.  From there, he uses another spell to bind all three demons together.  Not only that, but it powers itself by their own rage and will shock them should any one of them try to break free or remotely ponder about any malevolent idea.  He then tells them that it’ll only wear off if they all “think nice thoughts”.  From there, he then reveals that they were actually the key figures in his plan to break out of his eternal punishment.  Because he’s nowhere near as powerful as the Spectre, he actually convinced the grand being to inform the three demons where he was being held.  As Nergal, Beelzebub & Ashox degenerate into blaming each other for their predicament before they try to rough one another up, Constantine uses one of their own portals to finally escape.

He then takes a casual walk “in the world between worlds” before he’s suddenly met upon by the Spectre.  After the grand being picks him up, John demands to know if his memory will get wiped or if his own friends will resume their constant mutilation upon him.  However, Spectre says that he had no such cruel intention and that he only wanted to put Constantine in a place where he could eternally live with his loved ones “in an endless, perfect dream”.  It’s then revealed that because John doesn’t believe that he’s worthy of eternal happiness due to him never letting go of his past failures, despite his fallen friends actually forgiving him, he was subconsciously punishing himself by turning his loved ones into demons.  As such, Constantine humbly accepts his punishment.  However, Spectre essentially tells him that this initial sentence is no longer allowed, since it’s the universe itself that “demands restitution”, especially with it being an actual “living thing”.

From there, a bright light forms in the distance and grows.  John feels the warm glow emanating from it, but it soon turns into a furious red as the Spectre tells him that because of his “selfish” act against the universe, it’s going to “exact its price” upon him.  Constantine begs him to not let this happen, even willing to let the grand being kill him.  However, his request goes unfulfilled as the universe pulls him into itself.  And so, the film ends with Spectre briefly pitying him before taking his leave.

Now that this otherworldly venture has concluded, let’s briefly get to my character analysis on our featured Hellblazer himself: John Constantine.  Throughout this particular universe, he’s come across towering situations that’re being caused by various powerful figures.  Even though those beings provided their own grave challenges to him, he’s always had someone else to help him out and provide a key assist in some way, shape or form.  However, he’s lost that luxury once he has the Flash attempt to rewrite their world’s history via a Flashpoint.  Instead of getting to go to a proper afterlife, the House of Mystery would initially serve as his place of eternal rest with the representations of his closest friends and even a family of his own constantly around to provide some comfort.  While his troubled past was a source of strength for him throughout his life, especially since it initially formed from his failure to save Astra during his youthful years and ultimately became a serious cocky smugness that he’s forged into a wise-guy level of thinking that’s helped him out of tricky supernatural situations, it ultimately serves as his final undoing here.  Due to the painful sorrow of his life that started with not being able to save Astra before it became further compounded by other personal regrets that he’s gathered during his days, he ends up unintentionally turning what should’ve been his own joyful slice of Heaven into his own personal Hell.  His friends and family repeatedly turning into demons as a result can serve as the overwhelming personal guilt that John has subconsciously built over his life and is unwilling to let go, despite those that he’s either cared for or unintentionally thrown under the bus were more than willing to forgive him and ease his pain.  Towards the end when Nergal and two other demons that he’s sold his soul to show up, Constantine’s crafty way of thinking allows him to get the last laugh upon the former monster that he ultimately went up against during his solo animated movie.  Sadly, his choice from the end of “Apokolips War” still came back to haunt him and it became the one situation that he couldn’t scheme his way out off.  If he has any lesson that should be taken from this tale, then it’s these two.  First, one should always make peace with their past actions, no matter the severity of personal pain that it’s caused.  Second, all actions (no matter how good or bad they can ultimately be) can always have negative consequences.  As our Hellblazer found out, his well-intended good deed wouldn’t be going unpunished.  For what should ultimately be his final turn within this animated realm, Matt Ryan continued to exude the confidence, energy and snarky wit that he’s brought to the role in both the animated and live-action realms.  It stood out a little bit more here, due to him being in a more singular story than even in his animated film.  For what can stand as the capstone to this DC Universe, he’s more than solidified his space as the character and helped this iteration close out on another solid note.

The story presents a fairly-engaging mystery for the audience to figure out, especially for those who’ve been following this particular version of the DC Universe for a while.  The mystery itself officially kicks into high gear once he comes across his familiar group of friends, which includes a few figures that were either killed off or had their friendly memories wiped as a result of a past mission.  From there, they would ultimately transform into demons before viciously murdering him, thus causing the whole self-contained imprisoning reset to occur.  It could be implied that John’s punishment began with the Spectre wiping his memory of how he wound up eternally trapped in the House of Mystery, since the audience ultimately gets to learn how he found himself in this eternal predicament to begin with alongside him.  Ultimately, this journey sees Constantine dealing with a theme for this tale.  While “Justice League Dark” saw him learn how to require the help & even companionship of others, his solo venture in “City Of Demons” had him face the representation of his first major failure in order to save a best friend’s loved one and “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” required our bloke to recover from the personal loss that he and & everyone around him has suffered at the hands of a towering figure in order to finally tear said being down, he ultimately deals with forgiveness.  Unlike his three prior onscreen battles, this proves to be his ultimate downfall.  After all, Richie, Jason Blood/Etrigan and especially Zatanna all lost their lives while under his watch in some way, shape & form.  As for Chas, he had to sacrifice his own friendship as well as Chandler’s own marriage in order for his little girl to be spared from a horrid fate.  I’m sure that combined with Gary Lester and the other non-descriptive people that’re in the House of Mystery, every single one of them represented how he’s failed to completely save them in some kind of darkest hour.  As such, he’s compounded all of this emotional baggage that he’s refused to let go.  Whether or not he actually required himself to do so in order to stay motivated against the dark forces of the globe is never explicitly explained, but it ultimately proves to be his worse decision on a personal level.  After all, his ill-advised notion with convincing Flash to undo the lethal carnage that was placed upon the world via a Flashpoint was self-imprisoning before it was self-inflicting, but at least he initially thought that he was ultimately doing the right thing for Earth’s populace.  If the Spectre & (by extension) the universe itself properly knew about his situation and came up with a way to help him ease his own personal pain while also allowing him to know how he wound up forever bound to the mystical house, then maybe he could’ve been more willing to live out the rest of eternity with the representations of his loved ones.  However, he’s only a single being amongst the surviving human race who has to deal with things by himself.  As such, he was unable to forgive himself in a proper manner and ends up losing his life in order for some sort of universal re-balance.  As for the entire narrative and how it was presented, it’s tone was nicely handled.  While it was ominous for the most part and it ultimately ended on a tragic note, it did leave a few key moments for some levity (and even a snarky detail or two from our main lead) to help balance that aspect out.  Moving on to pacing, it started off on a smooth, foundation-building flow in order to establish our initial setup.  Once we get past our initial rule-of-three slaughtering of John, then it starts to pick up for the twists & turns that await us before the ultimate conclusion.  In terms of the supporting cast’s performances, they helped to nicely compliment our main character throughout his journey without anyone of them feeling out of place within their roles.  Finally, the animation is a notable change from the style that had permeated this universe.  Constantine & Zatanna’s designs are the most noteworthy differences than what we’ve seen of them in their past appearances, but they ultimately complimented the story once the viewer is completely settled into this tale.  As for the animation itself, there wasn’t really anything that I found majorly egregious.  Aside from a red club on a playing card, I was hard-pressed to find any major mistakes in this department.  As such, it flowed as smoothly as possible without a moment of awkwardness towards any of the many characters’ movements.  Finally, it was also backed up by a good color palette.  From the greys of the barren wasteland that the House of Mystery is permanently stuck in to the dim range of muted colors within the house before we finally stretch this aspect when it comes to the vast universe, each shade & tone was pleasant to the eyes and allowed its viewers to always notice every single detail & action that went down upon with this otherworldly venture.

Overall, this closing chapter to the DC Animated Movie Universe was a somewhat-melancholy, yet still well-written good time.  The pacing felt just right, the supporting players nicely served themselves within their roles, the action was brutally thrilling, the animation hardly had any huge faults and our main character was likable & charming as ever.  It closes out this entire world on a downbeat note, yet gives its lead actor one last hurrah to share his relatable, flawed and semi-cynical Hellblazer upon this animated front.  If you’re a longtime following of this particular string of movies (and even a few tie-in comics as well), then give this short film a watch.  Even if you’re only up for a stand-alone experience, then consider taking a particular walk on the dark side and check it out.  As for what kind of a future the DC Showcase will hold, here’s hoping that other lesser known characters within DC’s vast library get their moment (no matter how brief) moment to shine, whether within the brightest of spotlights or even within the moody magic of the dark side.

John Constantine (created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch & John Totleben) is owned by DC Comics.

By coolcomix0221

Love Comics, Video Games, and Sports. Aim To Become a Sports Writer.

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