Jesse Garcia is a tall, strong, handsome, ex-military type. He is in his mid-thirties but has the maturity and the wisdom of a much older man. His ‘thousand-yard stare’ tells us that he has seen a lot of bloodshed. He lives with his only daughter, Reina, who is a spunky ten-year-old, in a woodsy cabin somewhere in the distant Sierras. The ‘mother’ of the family is a middle aged, smart, military trained, female German Shepard named Clara.
The film opens with Jesse on patrol with his platoon somewhere in the desert of Iraq. He is in camouflage with his M-16 ready for fire at the slightest pretext. The infantry platoon walks several paces behind a tank. The tank stops suddenly, and Jesse holds up his hand to instruct his fellow soldiers to stop their march. The tension is enormous, for the only sound we hear is the idling engine of that tank. Then, suddenly, there is incoming fire from everywhere. Though the tank manages to fire off an artillery shell, it is soon consumed by so much incoming fire as to be set aflame. The soldiers try to return fire, while crouching behind the tank debris and the flames. The problem is that there are no clear targets – just artillery shells and bullets that fly in from the horizons. Most of the soldiers are decimated quickly. They are decapitated or blown to bits from all that incoming fire. Jesse flees for a boulder off in the distance, which he hopes will provide a bit more cover. Two other soldiers follow him there.
One of the subordinate soldiers is a communications specialist named Romo. He sets up his phone equipment behind the boulder in an attempt to call for reinforcements. Jesse and the other soldier, a young infantryman by the name of Sanchez, peer over the boulder with their long distance binoculars. They are trying to find the enemy, but there is nothing out there but desert haze. The incoming fire remains as strong as before, even though the rest of the platoon is dead.
Jesse has an epiphany. He turns back to Romo and orders him to cease trying to reach the command headquarters. Dumbfounded, Romo does not know how to respond; so Jesse grasps the phone for himself. Jesse types in a different number that he knows from heart. He listens for instructions in dead silence, while Romo and Sanchez watch him with concern.
Jesse hangs up without ever saying a word. He has a distant look on his face. He removes his revolver from its holster, faces Romo, and fires several rounds into Romo’s forehead. The top half of Romo’s skull blasts off from that close range fire. Jesse turns toward Sanchez just before Sanchez fires his M-16 into Jesse’s torso. Jesse knocks the M-16 away. He fires his revolver, but there are no more bullets; so instead, Jesse fights Sanchez by hand. The two men manage a lot of punches and kicks, before Jesse gets on top of Sanchez and pummels Sanchez’s bloodied face with the grip of his revolver. Jesse steps back from his carnage, and watches as the two corpses morph into dead serpents. The serpents are swallowed whole by blistering hot sand, and all that incoming fire immediately comes to an end. Jesse steps out from behind the boulder and starts to walk by himself toward the large sun. He holds one hand over his eyes, so as to block the sun. His slow walk turns into a job, then a run, then an all out sprint, like he is trying to catch the sun. He screams out in agony when the tension is too much.
Jesse awakens from his nightmare. He is alone in his dark bedroom. He walks over to his window and sees Clara outside patrolling the outer perimeter of their cabin. The snow is cold out there, but Clara looks back up at him contentedly. Jesse then wanders out of his room and down the hall. He checks in on Reina, who is sleeping soundly on her bed. Jesse walks downstairs and into the kitchen. He retrieves a beer from his refrigerator, sits at the kitchen table, and holds the beer against his forehead, like he is suffering from a horrible headache.
The next morning, Jesse awakens at the kitchen table. He hears shuffling feet inside the family room. Before he pursues the sound, he sees he has his revolver next to him upon the table. He has no memory of how it got there, and he is immediately concerned about what may have been on his mind last night. He shoves the revolver into his pocket, and he steps inside the living room in time to see Reina dropping an armful of fire logs onto the pile beside the fireplace. Reina looks back at him with an embarrassed smile. Clara is sleeping beside the fireplace after having been on patrol all night. Still, Clara opens her eyes to acknowledge her master in the living room.
Later that same day, Jesse and Reina are out in the snow covered woods. Reina carries a rifle, while Jesse remains a couple of paces behind her. They come across a deer in the woods on their path. Reina looks back at her father. He gestures for her to drop to one knee and to check her aim. She does so with the confidence of a child who knows that her daddy will protect her no matter what happens next. The deer appears in her crosshairs, and she is about to pull the trigger. Suddenly, the deer its face towards them; and in Jesse’s eyes, the deer face morphs into the face of a hissing serpent with glowing, red eyes. The eyes search him over, like they are looking for a weak point in his mind. Jesse recoils and screams. This disrupts Reina’s shot, and the deer prances off unharmed. Reina tries to console her father, but Jesse insists that they continue on the hunt.
That night, Jesse is drinking too much, while Reina puts away what is left of dinner. Reina eyes her father with concern. Seeing the concern in her eyes, Jesse calls Reina over to him. She sits on his lap, while he explains to her that too much fighting can make a man sick sometimes. Even out here in the woods, so far from civilization, a man’s warrior past can come back from the grave in which he thought he had buried it. Jesse walks his daughter to her bedroom, and watches as she says her prayers by her bed. He tucks her into bed and remarks that he wishes he could pray like that still. Reina tells him that he can do anything, that she believes in him, and that she loves him more than anything. In a way, though her is tucking her into bed, she is the mom here consoling a heartbroken and frightened boy.
Jesse is back in Iraq. His desert army camp is under fire. Soldiers are crouching behind the perimeter wall, returning the incoming fire as best they can, but mostly being decimated by that unseen enemy beyond the desert haze. Jesse fires with the others, but then looks around him to see if anyone is paying attention to him just then. Seeing that the coast is clear, he abandons his post, and wanders back into the interior of the camp. He looks into several tents, but sees no one inside. He hides whenever he sees a group of soldiers running passed him towards the front line. He steps surreptitiously into the medic tent. Most of the beds are empty, but in the far corner a young man lies precariously close to death. An explosion outside rocks the medic tent hard, but Jesse makes his way to the sleeping man. Jesse sees that no one is looking, and then he chokes the life out of that man. The man morphs into a serpent, while caught in his death spasm, and in a final act of defiance the serpent coils up Jesse’s arms and tries to choke him at the same time. The serpent dies before Jesse passes out. Another explosion outside blasts the tent open, and a strong desert wind consumes the dead serpent. Jesse staggers out of the tent. His ears are ringing from that last explosion. He staggers over dead and dying solders. The incoming fire has stopped, but Jesse seems more focused now on the sun. He runs after that sun with a horrified vengeance.
Jesse awakens to the sound of Clara barking from outside the cabin. He rushes over to his window and sees Clara barking at something in the woods. Jesse goes to his wall safe. He opens it, and beholds a revolver inside. He hesitates a moment, but then grabs the weapon and heads downstairs as fast as he can. He joins with Clara in the snow behind his cabin. Flickering, moving, red lights beyond the tree line suggests that there is something in the forest. Jesse orders Clara to go back into the cabin and to protect Reina. Clara obeys, and Jesse walks toward the flickering lights with his revolver in hand. Inside the forest, the lights seem always to be a few paces ahead of him, like they are drawing him deeper into the dark and foreboding woods. He finally reaches a snow covered clearing. There, he sees two huge, muscular, armor plated warriors, one wielding a spiked, iron ball at the end of a chair, the other a long pole with a sharpened knife on each end. Jesse tries to fire his revolver, but nothing happens. He throws the revolver away, and runs into the center of the clearing to face both men at once in hand to hand combat. Jesse transforms in the course of the fight from a frightened and reluctant warrior to a passionate one. He actually enjoys how he outmaneuvers the two bulkier opponents, often turning their weapons against one another, and using his superior speed to keep them off balance. He eventually kills both men with the weapons that each had brought to the fight. He stands over their mashed bodies as the very image of the triumphant warrior, but then hears Clara howl in desperation back at the cabin. Once more frightened, Jesse runs back to the cabin. He finds Clara caught in a trapped that had been laid for it in the snow. Clara’s paws are bound to the ground. No doubt, Clara is enduring a lot of pain, and yet it focuses on howling toward a particular spot in the forest. Jesse releases his German Shepard from the trap, and Clara bolts at once toward the forest. Jesse follows in pursuit. Again, Jesse sees those flickering red lights drawing them deeper into the forest. Aware that there is likely a trap ahead, Jesse calls back Clara and orders her to stay. He proceeds into the forest on his own. This time, rather than finding a couple of medieval warriors, he comes upon a tall man wearing a dark iron mask, a dark cape, and horseman’s boots. The tall man carries Reina toward his regal black stallion. The tall man ascends the horse’s back without dropping Reina, who looks back the whole time at her father with pleading eyes. The tall man looks back at Jesse one time, nods his head as if the victor in a gentleman’s game, and gallops into the night. Jesse falls to his knees, and stares forlornly into the darkness.
The next morning, Jesse is seated at the kitchen table reassembling his revolver. He has been cleaning his weapon, which did not work for him the previous night. Clara lies by his side, sad for the loss of Reina, and attentive for whatever Jesse may command it to do next. Once he is done with his revolver, Jesse holsters his weapon, and steps into the living room. He kneels in front of the fireplace and stares into the crackling flames. There is a distant look on his face, like he ‘hears’ something spoken to him that no one else can hear. He returns to the kitchen, puts on his heavy coat, leashes Clara, and leaves his cabin behind him.
Graciela Gomez is a beautiful, strong, ex-military type in her mid thirties. Retired from the armed services, she is now an inner city cop on surveillance. She sits behind the wheel of her cop car. Her younger partner, Adam Cox, handsome jock type, sits in the passenger seat. He does not pay attention to the mini mart that they are watching. Instead, he flips through images of scantily clad blondes on his smartphone. He makes inappropriate comments to Graciela about ‘his girls’ in the hopes of turning her on or making her jealous. Any reaction will do, since he really desires to get into Graciela’s pants someday. Graciela finds Adam to be annoying. Two greasy criminals step into the mini mart. Graciela orders Adam to drop the smartphone and to cover her. Adam reminds her that they are supposed to call for support only if they view something strange, but Graciela knows that this crime will be done, and someone will be hurt, if they wait for backup to arrive. She gets out of her cop car and rushes to the mini mart, while Adam fumbles for his gun well behind her. She sees the two criminals aim their rifles at the scared mini mart cashier, who is grabbing as much cash as he can out of the register. She sneaks into the store without getting their attention or spooking them into firing their rifles. The crooks seem antsy, probably high on something, and ready to put down this cashier the moment he complies. Sensing that there is no more time, Graciela rushes up the center aisle toward the cashier. The cashier sees him, and the crooks see the cashier’s eyes move. They both turn to face whoever is coming up the aisle, and they fire simultaneously in her direction. Money flies through the air, as the cashier hides under his table. The two crooks turn out to be bad shots, as their bullets knock over a candy stand but do not touch Graciela. She crouches behind another stand, and returns fire. A mad gunfight then ensues that tears up what is left of the mini mart before it is done. When she fires the last of her bullets, she holsters her revolver and searches through the mini mart for the crooks, who have hidden themselves in the aisles. She fights one of the crooks over control of his rifle. She uses his rifle to fire a blast into the other crook, when she eyes him sneaking up from behind her. Sending an elbow into the first crook’s face, she knocks his rifle away, and they fight one another in hand to hand combat. Graciela punches the crook through the storefront window, but he grabs a hold of her at the last moment. Both of them fly through the window and onto the street. The crook is dead when he hits the ground. Adam is standing off to the side screaming through a bullhorn for the crooks to come out with their hands up. The reinforcements are as useless as the boy toy Adam, and so Graciela feels justified in telling them off when they try to help her off the ground.
Back at the precinct, Graciela stands at attention before her captain’s desk. The crusty, older police captain reads her the riot act for taking matters into her own hands. He releases her with a warning that one more stunt will cost her her badge. Before she leaves his office, the old police captain tells her that her ‘brother’ is here to see her. He says that he did not know that she had a brother. She comments that there is a lot he does not know about her, and then steps out of his office before he can respond. She walks toward her office with evident trepidation, since she has not heard from her ‘brother’ in a long time and presumed never to hear from him again.
Graciela is back in Iraq. She is in camouflage with her M-16 ready to be fired. She is with an intelligence officer making the rounds of a small village. They are looking for information about a local Jihadist group by going door to door. Thus far, the locals have been reluctant to say much of anything. At the last hour on the street, Graciela comments that she intuits something wrong about this one. The intelligence officer laughs at her reliance on intuition, like she is a Jedi tapping into the Force or something. He and his Marine escorts move toward the door, while she stands back to cover. Just as the intelligence officer is about to knock on the door, the door blasts out from inside. The bomb instantly kills the officer and his Marine escorts. Graciela takes cover to return fire, as Jihadists pour out from the safe house with guns a blazing. Overwhelmed by their fire, Graciela retreats down an alleyway. She knocks a young Iraqi off of his motorcycle, and she motors down the narrow streets in an attempt to escape. Other Jihadists have been alerted, and so they fire at her from rooftops. She barely avoids a mortar shell, and then steers into a barrier that catapults her into a ditch just outside the town limits. She lies unconscious, while gunfire in the town behind her suggests that the American reinforcements have arrived to knock back the Jihadists. As she slowly regains consciousness, Jesse is several paces away fighting hand to hand with a large Marine. She awakens in time to see Jesse stab the Marine several times. As the large man dies, he morphs into a serpent with glowing, red eyes that hisses venom back at Jesse. The serpent finally dies, and sinks beneath the mud. Graciela screams, and Jesse embraces her before she can call attention to them. He explains that he is killing off ‘the devil’s infiltrators’ one by one. She looks into his eyes and sees a madman, and yet she cannot deny that that Marine truly had turned into some sort of demonic snake before being swallowed up by the earth. Jesse tells her to trust her feelings. He says her intuition brought her here. She trembles in fear, for in a way she cannot understand she senses that he is absolutely right in saying that.
Graciela hesitates a moment, and then steps into her office. She sees Jesse with a German Shepard waiting for her. She closes the door behind her to hide their conversation. Jesse cuts to the chase: His beloved daughter has been kidnapped. He had left the service of ‘the Order,’ and kidnapping his daughter apparently is their way of trying to recruit him back into service. As the talk progresses, she asks him why he had left ‘the Order’ in the first place. He explains that ‘even killing snakes is still killing.’ He needs her help, because if he does not recapture his little girl soon they will kill her. Graciela does not commit, but seeing how bad he looks she decides to take him and his dog back to her place for the night.
Back in her small, inner city apartment, Graciela puts some kibble in a bowl for Clara and retrieves a beer for Jesse, who is reclining with his feet up on the couch. They talk about the war, about the friends left back there in the desert, about the loss of innocence.
Jesse and Graciela are back in Iraq. They are walking together across the desert with no illumination but moonlight. Graciela mentions that they will need to get back soon, or someone is going to note that they have skipped out on their watch. Jesse does not respond. He is a man on a mission. They ascend to the top of a hill and behold a campfire site below them. There are a few skanky girls frolicking with an ugly, obese, older man on a couch perched on the sand. Two Americans soldiers have joined into this Arab sex party. They are drunk beside the campfire, while a couple of Arab hookers try to entice dollars out of them by doing a provocative dance. All the others at the party are sleeping off their earlier booze binges. Jesse asks Graciela what she now senses. Graciela concentrates, and determines that both soldiers need to be taken out. Jesse is already setting up his sniper rifle, before she makes that final determination. He aims and fires a bullet into the foreheads of both men. Each soldier falls back, trembles erratically, coughs up an odd colored phlegm, and morphs into serpents. In the meantime, the ugly, fat potentate on the makeshift sofa and his many hookers run for cover. Jesse and Graciela hold hands, as they step back from the edge of the hill and watch the mayhem down there with their naked, childlike eyes.
Graciela walks over to the couch. She takes the empty beer can from his hand, tosses it aside, and crawls onto the couch. She slides up to his face. They look at each other like the teen lovers they had imagined themselves to be in the midst of their horrible service for ‘the Order.’ She kisses him; and though he is sad for his daughter, he kisses her back. They kiss one another passionately. Finished with its kibble Clara walks over to the couch and stands watch below them.
Father Cristopher Columbus, middle aged, authoritarian minded, with a steely gaze that is meant to intimidate as much as to observe, is kneeling at prayer before an ornate altar. He is in a medieval cathedral and wearing a medieval monk’s habit. He makes the sign of the cross in due time, stands up, and retreats to his confessional box along the side of the church. He passes a veiled, stooped lady in the first row who appears to be saying a Rosary. As soon as he steps into his confessional box, the stooped lady hobbles to the box next to it, and settles into the wooden seat inside with the apparent intention of making her confession. ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,’ she begins, before removing a revolver from inside her black dress and pushing the long muzzle through the open space in between the two boxes. She removes her veil, and we see that it is Graciela in disguise. Graciela is surprised, though, that there is no frightened priest inside the other box. Her confessional box door opens, and Father Columbus stands there with a revolver in hand. He points his gun at her, and gestures for her to get out of the box. He takes her gun and nudges her out the back of the cathedral, where there is a white van idling. Two other priests in white collars and clerical black clothes take Graciela from Father Columbus and bind and gag her in the back of the van. Jesse watches this through binoculars, while sitting in a nondescript car in the same alleyway. The tables have been reversed on them. Jesse fears losing Father Columbus, and yet he has no choice but to pursue the van. Inside the van Graciela is working on the rope that is tied about her wrists, while the priest accompanying her in the back of the van makes all sorts of inappropriate, flirty gestures toward her. He seems unaware of how she subtly moves her hands, because he is fixated on her beautiful eyes. She releases her hands, removes the gag from her mouth, and lunges toward the lascivious priest. He is taken by total surprise, and yet he is much larger than her and thus able to withstand her assault at first. Graciela and the priest are fighting to the death in the back of the van. Jesse sees the van ahead of him suddenly veer side to side, like there is some sort of commotion inside the van. He speeds up, so that he is directly behind the van. Inside, after some hand to hand combat, Graciela kicks the van door open, sees Jesse behind the van, and jumps onto the hood of Jesse’s rented car. Graciela crawls over to the passenger door, and slides into the car through the open window, while Jesse speeds down the freeway. The van catches up to Jesse, and the van driver starts to fire bullets at Jesse’s car. Jesse returns fire. The two automobiles bump into each other repeatedly. Finally, Jesse nudges the van into a barrier along the side of the freeway. The coast is far from clear, though, as there are soon two other priests in hot pursuit. Each is driving a motorcycle on either side of Jesse’s nondescript car. As one priest exchanges fire with Jesse, the other roars up to the passenger window, reaches in, and grabs a hold of Graciela with his free arm. He tries to yank her out of the car and onto the back of his motorcycle. Clara is in the backseat. The German Shepard uses its paw to push down on the automatic window opener, growls angrily at the priest motorcyclist beside the passenger window, and leaps through its open window and onto the back of the priest. Clara goes for the priest’s jugular, and the priest soon veers off the road. The other priest motorcyclist leaps from his motorcycle to the hood of Jesse’s car. He smashes through Jesse’s windshield with iron plated knuckles and tries to lunge toward Jesse. Graciela kicks him in the nuts, and the priest rolls back. The priest grabs onto the hood ornament to stop himself from falling to the ground. Jesse speeds up and to his left, and smashes the priest against the barrier between the two sides of the road. The priest’s blood and guts are smeared onto the barrier, and yet he hangs on until the very end. At Graciela’s urging, Jesse turns around to check on Clara’s fate. He and Graciela find Clara along the side of the road waiting for them by the dead priest and the upturned motorcycle.
Jesse returns to the cathedral. He urges Graciela and Clara to wait in the car. This time he will confront Father Columbus on his own, assuming the older priest has not run off. He sees the older priest kneeling at prayer before the altar. He walks slowly down the aisle, watching the old priest the whole time, and slowly retrieving a stake from inside his jacket. He is prepared to stab the priest in the back, but at the last moment Father Columbus turns around to reveal the same iron mask that the tall man who kidnapped his daughter had worn. Jesse stops in his tracks, since the element of surprise is gone. Father Columbus stands up from his kneeler. The two men stare at one another a while, and then Father gestures for Jesse to follow him into a dark room behind the ornate altar. The dark room leads down a staircase. As Jesse follows Father down the windy stairs, they pass by medieval warriors and mythical creatures clamped to the walls on both sides of the staircase. The warriors and creatures growl and push against their restraints, for they want nothing other than to attack Jesse and to go for his blood. While they continue down the stairs, Father laments that Jesse could have been one of the greats clamped to this wall. He had had it in him to be a Knight of the Order, and Father’s greatest failure in life had been his failure to keep Jesse, his protégé, on the straight and narrow path. Jesse responds that he had killed enough of those damned serpents and that the angels of light and of darkness should fight their perpetual war without recruiting men like himself. Father leads Jesse into an underground chamber, where Jesse sees his beloved daughter, Reina, chained to a throne. Beside her stands the tall man in his mask and cape. Reina does not speak, but pleads with her father with her eyes. Father explains that the tall man will make Reina pregnant when she has her first period, so that together they can conceive a recruit to replace Jesse – that is, unless Jesse is willing to put aside his foolishness and to return to ‘the Order,’ where his life truly belongs. Father is giving Jesse one last chance at ‘the Order,’ and in return will let Reina return to her former life.
Graciela steps into the cathedral with Clara at her side. She is not one to remain back in the car when there is a crime in motion. She sees that the church appears empty, and yet she is pursuing her instincts, which tell her something is very wrong nearby. Four statues, two on each side of the church, come to life and step down from their pedestals. The statues of beloved saints morph into hideous warriors and descend upon Graciela and Clara. As the statues walk towards them, their marble exteriors turn fleshy, more dexterous, and more muscular. Only their faces remain impenetrable, emotionless, marble facades; the faces of vicious beasts cast into stone. A fight ensues before the sanctuary. It is apparent that the warriors do not want Graciela to pass the sanctuary and to ascend to the altar.
Jesse is about to relent to Father’s ultimatum, when they all hear the battle upstairs. Jesse snaps out of his fear and does battle with Father. The tall man gathers up Reina with the intention of removing her from the chamber. Jesse sees this, but he cannot get passed Father, who turns out to be a good warrior himself even in his advanced age. Jesse and Father grapple over the long knife Jesse had brought with him to the fight. Jesse eventually stabs Father, his former mentor, and Father whispers that he will see Jesse again in Hell. Father stumbles backward and die, just as the tall man carries Reina down a secret staircase behind her throne. Jesse sees the staircase, and pursues the tall man down windy steps that lead them into a dark, screaming, hellish place. The creatures clamped to the walls down here are overgrown, rabid rats with flickering red eyes.
Graciela and Clara do battle with the warriors. They dispatch all but the mightiest one, an ugly beast whose face is cast in stone but whose body is that of a martial arts expert. What then follows is a great martial arts fight between Graciela and the beast.
Though frightened by the squealing rats, each of which want to get out of their restraints and to go for his blood, Jesse quickens his pace when he hears Reina scream. Jesse descends to the bottom of the staircase. There he sees a high ceilinged, underground, house of horrors, men and women tormented by demons, eaten alive by overgrown rats, and dipped in and out of fiery cauldrons. Somewhere in this madness, Jesse sees the tall man with Reina in hand ascending his black stallion. Without hesitation, Jesse runs forward, and tosses the knife toward the tall man’s back. The knife punctures the tall man’s heart from behind. The tall man drops Reina to the dark ground, convulses in pain and in horror, and turns to face his tormentor. Jesse gathers his Reina, as the tall man transforms into a horned, scalded devil on horseback. The black stallion kicks up its front hooves, whinnies loudly, and carries this grotesque devil away from here. Jesse does not care where it goes. He hugs Reina, and together they retreat from this hell place.
Graciela and the beast continue to fight, when suddenly the cathedral starts to shake, like it is caught in a terrible earthquake. The ornate altar, statues, and stained glass windows, all the beautiful accessories start to fall to the floor. Off balance because of this earthquake, the beast stumbles backward; and Graciela takes advantage of the situation to land a fierce combination that effectively ends the fight.
Jesse shields Reina from the snapping, growling, squealing beasts still clamped onto the walls on both sides of the staircase. Because of the terrible earthquake, it takes every last bit of energy not to stumble into any one of the beasts. Eventually, they emerge out from behind the altar, and rejoin with Graciela and Clara. All four of them rush out of the cathedral just seconds before the enormous structure crashes into the ground.