Horror review: Priest

priest-movie-paul-bettany-2

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MAY 13, 2011

By Steve Newton

You’d think after the disaster that was last year’s biblical action-horror flick Legion that star Paul Bettany and director Scott Charles Stewart might have moved on from religion-themed splatterfests, but no such luck. Bettany is back to kick more ass for God, only this time instead of playing a mutinous archangel out to save an unborn child (and the human race), he’s a futuristic vampire-hunting cleric out to save a teenage girl (and the human race).

The good news is that Priest is not nearly as painful to sit through as Legion.

But that’s about it for the good news.

After an arresting prologue similar to that in last summer’s nifty horror-western Jonah Hex—where the movie’s brutal back story is vividly laid out via graphic-novel-style animation—we’re quickly introduced to Priest (Bettany with a big brown cross running from his forehead to the tip of his nose). A flashback/dream sequence shows him and his similarly tattooed team of vampire-hunting priests being ambushed by a swarm of bloodsuckers that resemble the slimy white CHUDS (cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers) of The Descent but with a healthy dose of sabre-toothed tiger DNA and no eyeballs.

The rest of the formulaic and routine film sees the tormented Priest trying to redeem himself by rebelling against the oppressive church-run world that refuses to believe the vampires are still a threat. When his niece is kidnapped by them, he and her boyfriend, sharp-shooting sheriff Hicks (Twilight’s hunky Cam Gigandet), head off on souped-up motorcycles to a Matrix/Mad Max–indebted showdown that also involves the sexy Priestess (Maggie Q of TV’s Nikita).

Much hand-to-hand combat atop a speeding train ensues, until we’re left with a blatant nonending that pretty much guarantees we’ll be hearing the oft-repeated line: “To go against the church is to go against God!” another five or six times in Priest 2.

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