Monday, April 9, 2012


Directed by Scott Charles Stewart.
2011. Rated PG-13, 87 minutes.
Paul Bettany
Karl Urban
Cam Gigandet
Maggie Q
Christopher Plummer
Lily Collins
Brad Dourif
Stephen Moyer
Josh Wingate
Alan Dale

Generally speaking, there are two types of vampires. The first type is a tortured soul who hates what he’s become. The idea of feeding on humans disgusts them. He views his immortality as more of curse than a gift. The other type has completely bought in to the Prince of Darkness persona. He’s very charming, yet manipulative, overtly sexual, sadistic and just thoroughly evil. As we’ve seen in nearly a century’s worth of vampire movies and books, there is plenty to be mined in the depths of either type. Unfortunately, Priest tries to reinvent the wheel and fail’s miserably. The vampires here are eyeless, saber toothed greenish monsters that crawl around on all fours. Applause should be given for trying to take the genre in a new direction. However, like in the Wrong Turn movies, it’s not a direction we should’ve went.

As the story goes, man and vampire have been warring since the beginning of time. Vamps were getting the best of it, so much so that humans literally walled themselves into makeshift cities where everything is controlled by the church. Somehow that’s not really explained, a group of super soldiers called Priests rise up and kill most of the creatures of the night, herding the remainders onto reservations. Since they’re no longer needed the Priests have faded into normal society. That’s a bit difficult considering each one of them has a tattoo of a cross splattered on their face.

We focus on, um, Priest (Bettany). He was once the leader of a squad of Priests and still has nightmares about the one guy he lost. Within a few minutes we find out that the lost guy, Black Hat (Urban) is now leading around a pack of vampires around. Don’t blame me, they didn’t give these guys regular names. And yes, I said a pack of vampires. We’ll get to that later. Anyhoo, Black Hat’s first stop is at Priest’s brothers house. No, this isn’t within the walls of the city. This is on a barren farm way out in the middle of nowhere. The vamps kill the brother and his wife, then kidnap their daughter. Taking none too kindly to having his niece abducted, Priest hooks up with the farm town’s very young sheriff Hicks (Gigandet) and springs into action. By the way, the higher ups in the church forbid this and send four other Priests to bring him back, dead or alive. Actually, the higher ups don’t do anything except get shouted down by Monsignor Orelas (Plummer) who gives the order to track down our hero. Did I mention that he said dead or alive? Just checking.

As a first person shooter or an RPG on your video game console of choice, what follows would probably be fun. The source material seems suited for this. I guess here is where I should mention Priest is based on yet another graphic novel I’m not cool enough to have even heard of. Were the fans of this book railing so loudly that Hollywood had to oblige them with a big screen adaptation? I seriously doubt it.

The problem starts with the vampires. They seem not to be able of intelligent thought, let alone formulating evil plans to conquer the world. This includes the one vampire all of this is attributed to. Spoiler Alert!!!: This vampire barely has a presence and should play a prominent role in a sequel, if one is ever made. As a whole, the vampires don’t impress as a real threat to humanity. Sure, they’re a physical threat, but are every bit as vulnerable to our weapons as any other animal plus they can’t come out during the day. Instead of a race that aspires to world domination, they’re much more a nocturnal pack of rabid dogs roaming the wastelands. I told you we’d get back to the “pack” thing, didn’t I?

Our threat comes in the way of Black Hat, the former Priest. Though they treat it as some big secret, the deal is he’s a “human vampire.” Basically, it just means he’s like Blade, if you’re familiar with that comic book hero. Of course, the difference is that Black Hat is a bad guy. He helps because he’s by far the most interesting character in the movie. Actually, Monsignor Orelas is the most interesting character. That’s mostly because he’s played by Christopher Plummer, but I digress. Our hero is exceedingly bland, his sidekick is a waste of space and the potential for a love interest is telegraphed far in advance, but only given an infantessimal moment of no consequence. Why yes, silly, her name is Priestess. The few almost intimate seconds they share isn’t enough to make these characters three dimensional, just a sad reminder that they could’ve been. Likewise for the movie’s one twist. By the time it happens we don’t care anymore. On top of all this, Priest is also similar in tone and confrontation with the church as Legion. This is no mere coincidence since that movie has the same director and star.

Both the not quite there love affair and thrown in twist make the entire movie feel rushed. Instead of developing anything at all, we’re merely hurried off from one action sequence to the next. The overall effect is we feel like we’ve just watched someone else play a video game for an hour while they us their other controller is broken. To make matters worse, one of their “better” friends comes over and starts using it with no problems. I like playing video games. I don’t like watching other people play them.

MY SCORE: 3/10

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