The grandiose opening of Neil Jones’s graphic novel movie The Reverend promises an epic action horror to rival Priest, Constantine and many other religiously overwrought, one-word-titled comic adaptations. Sadly this terrible bargain bin, British-made bore-fest is less Blade and more Vicar of Dibley.
The Reverend, played blandly by Stuart Brennan, is a fresh faced optimist sent to a small village to take over their parish. Disturbed one night by a lady scant of clothes and heavy of accent, the holy man realises he has bitten off more than he can chew when this lady of the night sinks her teeth into his neck, transforming him into a vampire.
Luckily however, The Reverend takes this all rather well and after visiting an internet cafe for a quick Google on vampires and a chat to the only Goth in the village (played by Emily Booth) he finds out all he needs to know.
This village is no ordinary village. In fact its nothing like a village at all, in that it is full of prostitutes, pimps, thugs and louts and run by a wannabe gangster who controls all the nefarious activities.
And so with his newly acquired super powers and without a care in the world for morals or whatever, the vampire vicar (which is a much better name for the movie by the way) sets about punishing the evil doers and protecting the innocent villagers while learning an important lesson – which somehow relates to God, or the big society, or bats, or who knows because to be honest I stopped caring after about fifteen minutes.
These fifteen minutes by the way are the opening I already mentioned, where the legend that is Rutger Hauer enters a church and has a mysterious and metaphysical conversation with some bald Buddha looking dude in all white, surrounded by priests with swords.
At this point I have to say that I was excited as a gasmask wearing survivalist on the eve of the apocalypse at what would follow. As the pair discussed the fate of one single soul, hinting at some sort of epic game for the lives of all of humanity played out by God and the Devil, my mind gleefully wondered where this film was going and what massive and important issues it would explore. All to discover that not only would Rutger Hauer never appear again, but I would be stuck for the next 90 minutes with a crappy badly made and utterly unoriginal gangster vampire film.
One major issue with The Reverend as a vampire film is that it’s a terrible vampire film in that it seems confused about what a vampire really is, offering up no real rules for the holy man’s condition or consequences for his transformation.
His addiction to blood seems to come and go and he is fine in daylight and around crosses – which if played with properly could have been an amusing implication of his altered state what with him living in a church and all.
And for a vampire gangster action film The Reverend seems overly concerned with talking rather than killing. And it seems that the rest of the characters who prattle on with no real point or meaning offering us no new insights into their plight or personality.
Case in point is a scene halfway through the film with Shane Richie and Emily Booth as a pimp and a prostitute (you can work out which is which), inserted I suppose to establish her awful hopeless situation and his aggressive abusive power – all of which to justify The Reverend killing him and saving her.
This is a scene that should have been a couple of lines at best. I mean not only are the characters clichéd stereotypes who we can understand and judge on appearance alone, but even the most cinematically illiterate have seen this sort of scenario in other movies or on TV in Eastenders or Dora the Explorer or whatever.
Sadly though, instead of a brief bit of banter and brutality we get an actors workshop, lasting what seems like half an hour where Ritchie and Booth spout pages of predictable pish or improvise or whatever and we, as the audience, sit frustrated and annoyed, waiting for the blood sucking to begin.
And its not the actors fault. In fact, not only is it good to see Shane Richie playing against type (unless you think his type is usually a horrible, evil, drug addicted, pervert pimp, and then he is playing to it perfectly) and Emily Booth is pretty good giving as much life and personality to her two dimensional character as possible, without rewriting the entire script.
The Reverend’s main problem is everything about it.
Okay that’s not fair but perhaps the blame can be laid down on Neil Jones who wrote, directed and produced the movie, proving that one person alone rarely has the best judgment and sometimes having a second opinion on a film stops it being an over indulgent meandering mess (Quentin Tarantino I am looking straight at you here!)
From the terrible incongruous country music score to the overly static and stilted camera work to the bad effects and complete lack of action, The Reverend is an uninspired mess with hardly any redeeming features.
Worst of all it believes itself to be so much more than it is, as if by just having a plot about a priest becoming a vampire, or an angsty voiceover every so often, or mentioning the Book of Job, or throwing in some corrupt cops and social unrest rubbish, it is making a massive point about society, or religion, or something rather than just being the rubbish badly made cheap horror it really is.
If you want to see an all-out action, comic killer, man of the cloth watch Priest. If you want to see an interesting and intelligent investigation into religion and vampirism see Thirst. Ff you want to watch something British about vicars, watch Father Ted. And if you want to see more than 15 minutes of Rutger Hauer watch any other Rutger Hauer movie, but under no circumstances should you bother watching The Reverend.
Unless you know someone that’s in it that is. And if you do, God and Satan help you when they ask you what you thought of it.
(For Emily Booth!)