PRIEST (2011)

"Faith, Vampires and Religious Fascism"

Content: -2 Discretion advised for adults.

What You Need To Know:

PRIEST, based on a Korean graphic novel series, is about a trained priest warrior who defies the strict orders of the Church to save his kidnapped niece from vampires. The Church leaders believe the vampires were defeated years ago, so they forbid the priest to rescue his niece. The priest, however, defies their orders. Outside the giant walled cities built by the Church, he discovers a rebuilt vampire army led by his former partner, a one-time Priest turned vampire who’s amassing the strength to destroy the walled cities of humanity. Now, the Priest, along with an outland sheriff and a fellow Priestess, must stand against the forces of darkness threatening to destroy mankind.

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.


(CC, PaPa, OO, BB, Ab, Ev, L, VVV, MM) Strong Christian worldview with strong occult elements centered on vampires and their war against humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, where some humans are called “familiars” and serve as slaves to the vampires, strong yet mixed elements of Christian and moral influence as prayer is depicted in multiple scenes, Scripture is read aloud throughout the movie, priests stand against the attacks of evil vampires as well as the oppressive power of the Church clergy who use religious ritual as well as lies to keep the public under control, so there is some Anti-Church content that will offend, plus vampire makes a comment about evolution; six obscenities (including one “f” word) and two profanities; very strong action and blood-letting violence throughout during fight scenes with vampires, some “graphic novel” animation shows people being dismembered by vampires, beheadings, etc., stabbing, punching, wrestling with creatures, family is killed by pack of vampires, implied that mother with infant is killed, villages attacked, priest tortures a vampire’s familiar, a priest’s heart is torn from his chest, several priests are crucified by a pack of vampires, explosions, motorcycle crashes, impalement, and comic book gore; no sex but it’s revealed priest had a child out of wedlock before he took his priestly vows of celibacy; no nudity; no alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; lying, priests are ostracized by the Church and brainwashing by the Church and the Church holds oppressive sway over public.

More Detail:

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, PRIEST, based on the Korean graphic novel series of the same name, is the story of a trained priest warrior who defies the strict orders of the Church in order to save his niece from a pack of vampires.

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.

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