Priest - 9/31 Days of Halloween 2020
Oh, how I do love vampires, especially unique takes on the monsters that stray from the Euro-trash, pretty boy trope. Give me predators. Fucking land sharks, man.
I also love post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. I mean, hell... it's my bread and butter! Now if you can combine post-apocalyptic wastelands with vampires, then you, my friend, have got my undivided attention.
Today's movie flew under my radar for the past nine years, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps the title? The poster which looks like a cheap Assassin's Creed knockoff? Both very good possibilities. However, as I've already pointed out in my review of The Video Dead, you can't always judge a movie by it's poster. Well, the train's leaving, so let's climb aboard and take a ride with 2011's Priest.
As the movie opens, we join an elite group of vampire hunters known as priests entering a vampire hive. Unfortunately, the vampires have set a trap for the priests, and one of their own is left behind. We then follow an animated history of mankind's eternal war against the vampires. Recently the vampires were forced into reservations while most of humanity enjoys the protection of walled cities run by the church. Since the vampire menace has been contained, the priests have been disbanded.
Not all is as neat and tidy as the church would have the city's citizens believe, however, because a horde of vampires attacks a family in the wasteland. A small-town sheriff tracks our hero (simply known as Priest) to the city and informs him that his brother's daughter has been taken by vampires. Defying the churche's orders, Priest joins the sheriff and ventures into the wasteland to search for the missing girl and eradicate the vampires responsible for the deaths of his family.
I love the look of this movie, especially the city. I get a real Equilibrium vibe from it, which is another amazing dystopian flick you should check out. The movie has a wonderful "used future" aesthetic. Probably my favorite thing about this movie, and it may seem silly, is Priest's bike. I love the jet turbine. It's like a Star Wars speeder with wheels. It's not too farfetched. It's got just the right amount of high tech flavor. I also feel compelled to mention the automated confession booths. The scene where Priest, frustrated by his inability to actually receive any true guidance from the monsignor, gives confession is great. This may be a vampire-killing movie at its heart, but there's some amazing dystopian imagery and themes going on here that I don't think a lot of people pick up on or give the movie proper credit for.
Let's talk about the villains. The vampires are sightless, speechless predators. It almost seems silly that they sleep in crypts like your typical vampire. The familiars are much closer to what most movie audiences picture when they think of vampires. Then, of course, there's the movie's main antagonist, the priest-turned-dhampir "Black Hat." Exactly why the vampire queen was able to make him into a dhampir when apparently no other had ever come before is left unclear, and based on the film's poor critical reception, it's unlikely that we'll ever get any answers. Which is a downright shame, because I want answers! Karl Urban is fantastic as Black Hat, and this film only cements my belief that he'd be a perfect fit for my own duster-wearing, wasteland wandering badass, The Weller. Call me, Karl. Let's talk. Seriously.
Priest is a fantastic science fiction/horror thriller, and I wish Hollywood would greenlight a sequel, because there's clearly more story to be told. Perhaps I'll check out the comic book source material to scratch that particular itch. If you're a fan of cautionary dystopian tales like Equilibrium or vampire-killing blood baths like Underworld, or good ol' sci-fi westerns (God, I love me a good SF western), then give Priest a shot. You won't be disappointed.