Thursday, October 11, 2018

Pharisee – review

Director: Timothy Novotny

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

Feeling like an older film, Pharisee is a vampire movie where we could actually question if the vampire, Pharisee (Brad Slitt), is really a vampire. He is certainly a killer, he certainly drinks blood and he seems to have an unerring level of attractiveness. However, did he really become a creature of the night – the film leaves us guessing to a degree. It certainly leaves us guessing around his vampiric partner in crime, as I’ll explain.

The film references other genre vehicles but ultimately it fails due to length and pacing and, to some degree, point. That is not to say that it is totally awful, it isn’t, but tighter editing and writing/directing are definitely called for.

Zoe's interview
So, we start with Zoe Bennett (Jammie Miller) cuffed in an interview room and about to be interviewed by FBI Agent Johnson (Ian Cameron). She is actively cooperating and, when he mentions the number of deaths attributed to her and her partner, she corrects the figure up to 42. Why she is cooperating is one of the mysteries never answered in the film. The film is her confession – but it is strange as there are plenty of parts where she was just not present and one wonders at how she could testify to certain parts.

a boy, lost
Anyway, we get some bad ass dudes in an abandoned building, talking about rolling any homeless person they find and replaying the Lost Boys dialogue concerning rice and maggots. We even have a character called Marco and another called Michael (Jon Vokes). Michael hears a noise, investigates and is got by person unseen – the others see him dragged off and run. Marco appears with a wound to his throat and the assailant shoots another of the bad ass dudes. We see he is a blond rocker type.

bar pickup
He is, of course, Pharisee. Later we discover that he was given his name in a Catholic orphanage. We see him go into a bar and a guy bumps into him. He sits at the bar and a woman immediately comes onto him. He mentions being thirsty and suggests going for a smoke. First he nips into the loo and (off camera) silently murders the guy who bumped him. They go for a smoke and she offers to take him home, he goes with her, gets it on down an alley and rips her throat open.

not a God fan
What becomes a tad confusing is why Pharisee, who claims to be addicted to blood, both drinks it and draws it out via a syringe and then injects it? Anyway he is a one man wrecking crew. At one point he picks up a hooker, Riggs (Theresa Byron), who offers to sleep with him for free, rips her throat out during sex and then continues to have sex with her corpse. In this case it seems he was triggered when she said, “Oh God” and disdainfully throws a crucifix onto her body when he leaves. Our Pharisee has an issue with God.

arty shot?
Through flashbacks we see that his very Christian wife died due to an overdose and he blames Jesus (shouting at a statue at one point). He certainly has played with the occult and it appears he has sold himself into the life of a vampire for a glimpse of his wife (or so it seemed). He certainly sees her from time to time, imploring him to stop, we also see him with some of the women he killed. It doesn’t appear that he turned them, perhaps he was haunted by them or it was just an arty shot in a montage sequence? He apparently cannot go out in daylight – which is about the only lore we get.

Zoe and Pharisee
After about an hour of this he and Zoe get together. Their first ‘meeting’ is when she is going to be raped and he shoots the rapist and then wanders off. She then sees him pick up a woman, follows them and finds the woman’s body. He grabs Zoe, carries her off and when she comes around he claims that he has killed and turned her – because she is like him, broken inside but beautiful outside. She gets him to rob a blood bank, to prevent him from constantly killing, but doesn’t bat an eyelid when he kills the security guard and then a biker to steal his hog. She doesn’t seem to have his addiction, but she does drink blood and joins in his murder spree/feeding frenzy. We see her in daylight, but that turns out to be a flashback to a murder she committed when a trick talked nasty to her. She tells the Agent that Pharisee was not human, like her and him, distancing herself from the vampire identity. So whether she is a vampire is debatable and, to be honest, Pharisee may as well be a simple serial killer.

Zoe attacks her friend
Eventually a gangster type called Lacroix (Octavious Maximus) – I assume a tribute to Forever Knight – is called in by police to hunt Pharisee down as they would rather not catch him as they want him dead and not on trial. However, the film has dragged and dragged to get to that point. It comes in at just under 2 hours and at least 30 minutes needs shaving off the time. The pacing was also terrible, to be honest. The other thing it desperately needed was a point – or perhaps not, if it had been shorter and paced faster it might have got away with being a murder-fest. Moments like Zoe luring her (only, if what we see in the film is accurate) friend off to simply kill her didn’t necessarily ring true.

The acting is generally average at best, sometimes poor, but Brad Slitt looks marvellous as Pharisee, having an eighties feel that fits with the feel of the filming. I didn’t buy the women throwing themselves at him as soon as he walked into a room but let’s put it down to vampiric attraction. Jammie Miller is engaging as Zoe. There is some stock footage used, it appears, for establishing shots and this can jar as it has a different texture to the film. There is a newscast that highlights LA but then the city is referred to as Nocturne City and a stock footage used of a CSI van would appear to be in the UK. Little things like that knock you out of the film.

I find it disappointing that I can only give this 3.5 out of 10. However if the filmmakers go back, tighten the pacing and editing and shave a massive amount off the running time I’d happily re-evaluate.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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