A disgraced nightclub bouncer faces off against a psychotic zealot vampire preacher. Quite a crazed concept ripe for hyperactive exploitation thrills, and yet Southern Gothic plays it pretty low key and laconic, for the most part anyway. Moody where other films would have been brash, it’s a nice atmosphere piece with gore galore and a gonzo central performance from William Forsythe as Enoch Pitt, a man of the lord who has strayed from the path. Bitten by a vampire, the already sleazy Pitt turns into a full on monster, tearing up the small Deep South town of Redemption and building an army of the undead. Hazel Fortune (Yul Vasquez) is traumatized and broken by the death of his young daughter, until he meets young Hope (Emily Catherine Young), who crosses Pitt’s vision and finds herself in mortal danger. This puts the two men on a vengeful collision course of blood, retribution and carnage. Ok, so I’ve made it sound a little more epic than it actually is, but that’s more or less how it goes down. Energetic it ain’t, more of a slow burn than anything else. Firmly rooted in B-movie territory in terms of both budget and script, but entertaining and distinctly flavoured nonetheless. Vasquez is moody and four, but dangerous when he needs to be. Forsythe, as usual, is the acting equivalent to a junkyard bulldog let off the chain, chewing scenery faster than he can munch carotid arteries, and loving every campy, frightening minute of it. Not the cream of the horror crop per sé, but reasonable enough Saturday night horror background noise fodder.
Priest is one of those flashy missed opportunities, a visually stimulating comic book flick that just couldn’t amp the substance metre up enough til it’s flush with style, and ultimately feels somewhat hollow. It’s still a gorgeous Blu Ray that will give your system a workout though, with some neat vampires and a great cast. Sometime in a murky post apocalyptic future, humanity lives in a giant gloomy city on the edge of oblivion, walled in for fear of vampires who have preyed upon them in the past. An order of warrior priests protects citizens and keeps order, until one rogue from their sect (Paul Bettany) discovers that the creatures may be back when an outsider couple (Stephen Moyer and Madchen Amick) have their daughter (Lily Collins) kidnapped from their desert dwelling outside the city. They come to Bettany for help, but the leader of his priesthood (a smug Christopher Plummer) is an obstinate son of a bitch and refuses to act. Bettany goes renegade along with Priestess (Maggie Q) and ventures into the wasteland to rescue Collins and fight these baddies. It’s frustrating because the look and design of this world is brilliant, like a dark opulant jewel that clearly has some thought put into it. But then… the dialogue and story are so numbingly pedestrian, straying not a kilometer into uncharted narrative waters to give us something even a little bit exciting or unpredictable. Quality jumps with Karl Urban’s dapper villain Black Hat, a vampire cowboy outlaw who oddly resembles what I’d imagine Stephen King’s Roland Deschain would look like if the powers that be took their heads out of their ass and recasted Idris Elba. But I digress. Like I said, terrific cast; Brad Dourif has a great cameo as a snide hustler peddling trinkets to superstitious townsfolk, and watch for the great Alan Dale too. Bettany always makes for a solid action hero, he just has a bit of trouble finding the right projects (have you seen that turd Legion? Good lord) that deserve bis talents. This one falls just short. It could have really used a few rounds of defibrillation from another screenwriter, and perhaps a hard R rating to take advantage of the horror aspects. Still, the vampires are creepy enough (echoes of Blade II are always welcome), the actors keep it going and there’s no shortage of style.