Faith, Vampires and Religious Fascism
Release Date: May 13, 2011
Genre: Action Horror
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 88 minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Entertainment
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Writer: Cory Goodman
Address Comments To:Michael Lynton, Chairman/CEO
Amy Pascal, Chairman - Motion Picture Group
Sony Pictures Entertainment
(Columbia Pictures/TriStar/Screen Gems/AFFIRM Films)
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
For centuries, mankind’s war with vampires went back and forth. That is, until the Church devised the ultimate weapon: an elite fighting force of priests who possessed extraordinary speed and strength. Soon, the vampires were all but annihilated, and the priests were no longer needed. They became outcasts after the Great War. After the battle, the Church built walled cities as safe-havens for humanity, but over time, the Church became corrupt with power, controlling and even brainwashing the masses with mantra’s such as, “To go against the Church is to go against God.”
However, not all humanity sought shelter in the walled cities. Some people chose to live as outsiders in the wastelands. Then one night, in the wastelands, a village is attacked by a pack of vampires, something that hasn’t happened in years. While the rest of the village is destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered, a young woman named Lucy is kidnapped. Word gets back to a Priest (Paul Bettany) that the young woman who was taken by the vampires is his niece.
The Priest goes before the elders of the Church and asks that his powers be reinstated so that he can rescue his niece and hunt down this new vampire uprising. The Church leaders, however, refuse to believe that vampires are returning and deny his request.
Against the hierarchy’s strict orders, the Priest sets out to find his niece. What he encounters, though, is more than just a marauding pack of remaining vampires. A new threat is emerging. A rebuilt army of vampires being led by a one-time Priest turned vampire is amassing the strength to attack the walled cities of humanity. Now, the Priest, along with an outland sheriff (Cam Gigandet) and a fellow Priestess (Maggie Q), must stand against the forces of darkness threatening to destroy humankind.
PRIEST mixes the genre of supernatural horror with old Westerns. The art direction is solid. Surprisingly, the third act does not turn into an overblown, plotless, effects-driven finale. Instead, the third act streamlines into a classic, Western showdown on a runaway train, but the classic showdown just happens to be set in a post apocalyptic desert between a warrior priest and a vampire. To the movie’s credit, it doesn’t become a big budget, explosion-fest. That said, the movie’s plot is formulaic, and the performances are one-note, so PRIEST is no groundbreaking movie. Also, the script does not set the scenes properly and does not understand that in Christianity priests or pastors are not called to violence but to service.
Sadly, PRIEST contains an overabundance of graphic novel violence and bloodletting, from vampire attacks and dismembered humans to gunshots and explosions. The violent, horror content and the frightening design of the vampires require extreme caution. There is also some brief, strong foul language as well.
The most objectionable part of the movie, perhaps, is its portrayal of the Church as a power-hungry, brainwashing regime seeking to control humanity through fear and propaganda. This indicates a failure to comprehend the meaning of the word “church”, which is the “body of believers”. Thus, even the two priests at the end constitute a small church.
Another significant misunderstanding is the nature and role of Christian priests or pastors. In Buddhism and Hinduism, there are warrior priests, and several Tibetan Buddhist movies, such as MILAREPA, have featured the warrior priest/sorcerer as the hero. The Korean graphic novel series may have been drawing upon this Buddhist tradition. In contrast, Christian ministers and priests are called to follow Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, who was willing to die to save his enemies, rather than kill. As followers of Jesus Christ, Christian priests and ministers are called to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner, not exact vigilante justice.
However, the movie could be construed as an allegory of the difference between empty religion (symbolized by a strict religious hierarchy) versus personal faith (symbolized by the movie’s heroic priest) because, even in the face of rebellion against the Church, the Priest never loses his personal faith and even uses prayer and Scripture to stand against the vampires. So, while the church hierarchy is oppressive, the personal faith is strong in the face of the enemy. Even so, this positive message of personal Christian faith in Jesus Christ is more subtle than its negative message of the evil, oppressive Church that seeks to control humanity, so, ultimately, MOVIEGUIDE® suggests extreme caution for PRIEST.
PRIEST mixes supernatural horror with old Westerns. The third act is an exciting action-packed showdown on a speeding train, but the rest of the movie is formulaic with one-note characters. Sadly, PRIEST contains an overabundance of graphic novel violence and bloodletting. Also, although it has strong depictions of personal Christian faith, they are much more subtle than its negative message of the evil, oppressive Church that seeks to control humanity. Ultimately, then, be extremely cautious about PRIEST.