Friday, August 31, 2012

The Reverend – review

Director: Neil Jones

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Blurbs can lie, its something we have seen on these hallowed pages more than once. Worse than that are front covers. For a moment take a close look at the front cover of the UK release of this DVD…

Ok, given the prominence of his portrait – centre and large – and the large typeface used for his name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this film stars Rutger Hauer (Dracula III: Legacy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer & ’Salem’s Lot). Now… the blurb (and I quote) Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Batman Begins) delivers a haunting performance as the bringer of death in this terrifying take on the vampire tale…” (their emphasis). His fairly laconic performance is actually all of five minutes long at the head of the film. At least one of the other genre icons in the film, namely Doug Bradley (Umbrage), has three separate scenes (though the first one with Rutger is spent silently floating around the back of the set) even if the screen time is probably even shorter.

the girl and Withstander
So, what do we have… Well it starts with Rutger’s character, called Withstander in the credits, in a car. Of course withstander means adversary and he is actually the devil. There is a girl (Marcia Do Vales) in the car with him and he sends her, in the car, to the village. Now… there are three locations in the film that we hear named, the village (a countryside village), the estate (a suburban sprawl) and the city (a city area) and we will get to the naming of things later. Withstander walks into a building where a group of priests aim swords at him until told to stand down by the Almighty (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, City of the Living Dead) – no guesses who he is.

Almighty and Rev Andrews
Withstander wants a certain young man – the Reverend (Stuart Brennan) of the title – a man who is pure. The agreement is that the Almighty will remove the protection from him and allow Withstander opportunity to show him pain, blood and suffering. This, Withstander believes, will make him turn his back on God and curse him. They fight over the souls of man one at a time. Of course Withstander has already sent the girl to the village where the Reverend is the new vicar.

He has just finished his first service to a low house and has promised the nosey Mrs Jenkins (Helen Griffin) that he will visit her for tea and cake on Tuesday. Outside it is raining and the girl knocks on the church door asking to see him, soaked to the skin. She briefly flirts and tries to tempt him but then launches at his neck, ripping a huge wedge of flesh as his blood spews across her mouth. He grabs a (conveniently pointed) cross and stabs at her, hitting the mark and he sees her burst into flames as he falls unconscious.

nasty wound
He awakes in the morning and we hear a voiceover as he tries to rationalise what has happened, his own doubts and fears coming into play. I loved the fact that there was a huge rip in his throat. He nearly calls the police but there is no body or scorch marks from the fire. Just in case we hadn’t realised it, she has written “poor little Job” in a hymn book as a clue for him. He heads to the vicarage (in sunlight – the sun has no place in this film’s lore) and by the time he gets there his neck has healed to just teeth marks. He studies the book of Job and then falls asleep.

licking blood from a knife
He dreams of the girl – her advice is to “embrace it” and is woken by Mrs Jenkins, worried as he didn’t turn up for tea… it is now Friday. He seems ill and so she makes him tea, but when she leaves due to a cut finger (and the need to get a plaster) he finds himself licking her spilt blood of the knife and from the work surface. He goes for a walk and meets all-too-obvious-villain Harold Hicks (Tamer Hassan) who “owns the village”. When he returns he is covered in blood – from a dog. He phones Reverend Andrews (Doug Bradley) but says little too him about events, yet despite this he is given the “embrace it” line.

vampire film club
Study is called for, so it is into the estate and an internet café to research vampires and then to a convenient vampire film club run by tart with a heart Tracy (Emily Booth). He runs into her pimp, Prince (Shane Richie), and a second run in sees him attack Prince, drink from him and then stake him – in this the vampirism is spread immediately on bite (even if it takes a while to turn properly as soon as someone is bitten they can be staked and their bite, in turn, spreads the affliction immediately), thus they burn up into conveniently inconspicuous ashes if staked. From here on in the Reverend – who has not lost his faith in God – starts to do God’s work by sermon and by bite. This will, of course, take him on a collision course with Hicks.

eyes turn black
The Reverend has massively (contact lens) blue eyes but when the thirst comes upon him they turn black. Other than that the lore has been pretty much covered. It is a case of the vampire becoming a divine messenger and his Job-like test is one of power and, of course, of simple faith. I found the acting quite pantomime at times but it very much worked as this is a graphic novel in film form. Indeed it says it is based on a graphic novel but then the film’s homepage suggests said graphic novel is coming soon. Compared to some of the performances, Stuart Brennan’s is understated and does come across as a mild mannered Reverend. The performance reminded me a lot of Sting in Brimstone and Treacle but where Sting could suddenly switch on evil, Brennan’s action orientated moments lacks some of the power they needed. That said it wasn’t too bad. Another aspect of the graphic novel-ness was the fact that there were no real names and everyone seemed to be content with that.

God's work
When the Reverend phones Reverend Andrews (only named as such in the credits) he says something along the lines of it’s me, the reverend. When asked which one he simply refers to the village and this is enough to identify him. This, along with the scenery chewing performances and the absolute lack of crisis of faith (within the main character’s development that is – to me he accepts what he is and acts as judge, jury and executioner almost too eagerly with only one dream suggesting he likes it a little too much), offers a surreal surrounding. The use of a rather good and strangely complimentary country and western soundtrack over the pastoral English village just adds to this.

Emily Booth as Tracy
I enjoyed this, it was far from perfect but I liked the simplicity of the violence – and boy did it have violence at times. I liked the use of the vampire as messenger and executioner on behalf of the divine, something we recently saw in Pearblossom. It is a film I am sure many will disagree with me over, but I think it deserves 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


BloodRedHeroine said...

At least the red rose which Hauer gives to the vampire girl is very beautiful. I just hope to see Styria soon...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

it is BRH, but it was the least he could do given the mission he sent her on... I too am really looking forward to Styria