sci-fi

Priest (2011)

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Whilst this is my second vampire film in a row it is as different from Queen of the Damned as Stilton and Feta cheese (I’m not quite sure which is which in this analogy). Priest is loosely based on a Korean comic, Manhwa (Korean for Priest) by Hyung Min-woo, it is set in a dystopic future where humans have finally defeated vampires, a war that has been going on for centuries. Following the victory over vampires, human civilisation is ruled by The Church a twisted take on today’s Catholic church complete with confession booths, which were very reminiscent of the dodgy portaloos you find at music festivals. The film follows Priest, played by Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind), one of the warrior priests that were instrumental in defeating the vampires. However, Priest along with the rest of his warrior companions was cast aside after the war back into the general population.

The plot is a simple one, Priest’s brother and his family are violently attacked by a group of vampires who kidnap his niece, Lucy played by Lily Colins (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and coincidently Phil Colin’s daughter). On hearing this news, Priest seeks permission from The Church to go and hunt for Lucy but is refused. Priest sets out anyway and in doing so becomes a fugitive who is pursued by fellow warrior priests. Upon arriving at his brother’s home, Priest is joined by the local law enforcer (and Lucy’s paramour), Hicks, played by Cam Gigandet (Pandorum), complete with “witty” one-liners.

I would be hesitant to call the vampires in Priest vampires, they are not like your “usual” vampire (e.g Interview with the Vampire, Vampyr and Captain Kronos) rather they are more akin to Alien, lacking all facial features except a very large mouth. These vampires are a completely separate race (as opposed to humans turned into vampires) and whilst humanoid lack all human characteristics making it very hard to relate to them. Indeed their very society is more similar to that of ants than humans, living in a hive each with its own queen.

More alien than vampire?

More alien than vampire?

In director Scott Stewart’s (Sin City, Dark Skies) vision is clear to see the inspiration from a graphic novel, indeed the opening of the film is an animated history of the vampire war. There was the sense of some greater depth to the film bubbling under the surface which was unfortunately left untapped and I was left feeling the plot was very light and an excuse for some set action pieces. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the original manga I would have been aware of some more subtly but to me Priest felt very one dimensional.

I would recommend Priest only if you are a fan of action films and don’t want to think too much about a plot.

Rating: 2/5

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Has anyone read the manga? Does it give more insight into the film or are they completely different?

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The Mole People (1956)

The mole people

The Mole People opens with an introduction from real-life Professor Frank C. Baxter on past views on the idea of a hollow Earth, which provide both a great context to the film and a very interesting side point. Baxter mentions two very famous theories by John Symmes and Cyrus Teed although what is not clear is these have any relationship to the underground chasm in the film. The film proper is set in nondescript ‘Asia’, although given the propensity of Sumerian is likely to be Iraq. It follows a group of Indiana Jones-type archaeologists led by Dr Roger Bentley and Dr Jud Bellamin played by John Agar (Revenge of the Creature, Invisible Invaders) and Hugh Beaumont (The Human Duplicators) respectively.

A series of clues unearthed during earthquakes points to a previously lost civilisation on top of the mountain where they settled after the great flood (think Noah and his ark). The archaeologists trek to the top of the mountain along with Professor Lafarge (Nestor Paiva), Dr Paul Stuart (Phil Chambers) and a local guide, Nazar (Rodd Redwing) where they find the ruins of an ancient temple. After a series of unfortunate events, several of which could have been prevented if wearing sensible safety gear and taking sensible precautions, the archaeologists find themselves deep underground where they discover the remains of the ancient civilisation, including a race of white skinned, black eyed people still practicing the ancient ways. There is another race, the eponymous mole people who are slaves to the humanoids, who, after 5,000 years can they truly be called human? The archaeologists arrival throws the underground realm into disarray causing a rebellion from the subjugated Mole People.

The Mole People is a good example of films from the 1950s, like all films of the era the men are ‘manly’ and the main hero gets the beautiful damsel in distress, a slave girl played by Cynthia Patrick who is Marked as she shows none of the genetic mutations to survive in the darkness. The special effects in The Mole People are typical of films from this era, with large caverns with exquisitely painted but unrealistic backdrops and too regular boulders and rock faces, and the disfigured mole people are obviously people in rubber masks. The film has a lot of dark shots, lit only with a spot light and handheld torch which is refreshing, as one of my biggest bug bears of films is the overuse of lighting when it apparently takes place in darkness.

The director, Virgil Vogel (The Land Unknown, The Big Valley) plays fast and loose with scientific fact and practice and there are a few glaringly obvious scientific falsehoods and malpractices, for example the Sumerians are described as albinos but all have black hair and the team manage to break a tablet that had survived 5,000 years and don’t seem to care. Despite the leaps of faith required, I enjoyed The Mole People immensely, it was very reminiscent of the original Star Trek and I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoyed the adventures of James T. Kirk.

Rating: 4/5

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