Welcome to Movie Monday! Here, I review recent film releases or screenings I’ve had the opportunity to watch thanks to the generosity of New York City. This week is Scott Stewart’s “Priest!” You can watch the trailer here.
In a special screening sponsored by Fangoria and Forbidden Planet, I had the chance to see several minutes of footage for the upcoming action/horror film Priest. While we weren’t given the full piece, what I did see (which included the WonderCon 2011 footage, animated prologue by the same artist that did Samurai Jack, and some clips) was honestly pretty darn good! Director Scott Stewart and star Paul Bettany were in attendance to answer questions, sign posters, and tell us just what makes this vampire movie a little different from all the others.
Plot: Priest is based off the Korean comic of the same name. The book’s creator, Hyung Min-woo, actually lent a creative hand in the development of the film according to Scott, which was pleasant to hear. Still, the movie diverges considerably from the source material, especially in the character designs. In terms of the plot’s development, Scott stated that the “emotional aspect” was very important, which is refreshing. Many could easily bill this as just another supernatural flick, after all.
The film’s world focuses on the Church, a vital part of daily living for humans, who have come to embrace its presence and protection. The Church gave mankind Priests, talented individuals that defeated the vampires in a gruesome war and drove them back enough for humanity to rebuild and forget. Of course, the Priests have not forgotten… especially not the one played by Paul Bettany. When the vampire threat returns, he is the first to raise the call; it’s just too bad no one else wants to hear it.
The 1982 film First Blood was labeled an inspiration by Scott because of its similar themes, particularly that of a soldier fighting a war because the government determined its necessity. The soldier returns to a society that’s moved past war, and waits until he’s relevant once again.
Visuals: These are not the vampires you’re used to. Scott made a point to clarify that they are not of the sparkly Twilight variety. “Our vampires are scary,” said Paul, and he wasn’t kidding: these are wicked things that look and sound like crosses between Xenomorphs and something out of Silent Hill. Scott called them metaphors for whatever scares you, different than the “sublimate sexuality” so popular today. In Priest, vampires are something that must be fought, not admired. They’re pale, ferocious, and most definitely not human – so much so that they’re CGI’d right in. They also bring a slew of gore with them in every scene, making this a terrifically bloody movie (Paul, in fact, recalled screaming for more buckets of the red stuff during filming).
As someone not crazy about 3D effects, I also have to say I enjoyed the extra pop from what I saw. It was obvious that scenes were planned out to work seamlessly with the technology, rather than haphazardly making a few bushes appear closer. That was an added touch that made the whole jumping-out-my-seat experience a touch sweeter. And the regular visuals? Scott said they used old anamorphic lenses, the same utilized in Bladerunner. Best of both worlds!
Acting: This movie has a strong cast. Paul Bettany plays the lead, with Maggie Q. as the “Priestess.” Scott and Paul noted that Maggie was “perfect for Priestess,” a decision they came to when she showed up to audition in a Beastie Boys t-shirt, rather than the catsuit all the other women were wearing.
Karl Urban also appears in this one, along with vampire veteran Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame. All in all, a great lineup!
Summary: Though I can’t say definitively until I see the whole shebang, Priest looks very promising. It has a strong backstory, a great cast, and visuals that made me squirm. It’s also neat to see vampires return to their– gasp– scary roots. Very excited to see it in theaters!
Memorable Quote of the Evening: “The things that my nipples do in 3D, I have never seen before.” – Paul Bettany