Preist is a post-apocolyptic vampire western. Sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it. The key word is “sounds.”
Let me preface this by saying that I did not read the graphic novel this film was based upon. I am not Catholic. I am not (as of yet) a vampire either.
Even so, I was insulted on behalf of all nerds, Catholics, and vampires. I thought about reading the graphic novel as a comparison, but noticed that Min-Woo Hyung, who wrote the graphic novel, is credited as a writer for the film. Either Hyung should have withdrawn his name from the film, or he should withdraw from creating comics. If someone wants to convince me that I should check out the comic, please let me know.
Conceptually, this film is not bad. I really enjoyed the costumes, weapons, setting, and vehicles in the film. I am a personal fan of westerns and of science fiction, so combining the two certainly appealed to me. In execution, this film was revolting. Remember how the best part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the opening credits that consist of a montage Wolvie and Sabretooth fighting in various wars? Yeah, same here.
Oh, and the near-plagairism doesn’t stop there. It’s as though the writers and directors Googled “movie cliches” and included every cliche character, plot development, and one liner. Priest has a protagonist tormented by guilt who rebels against an over-oppressive authority. It has a forbidden love interest, a daughter who doesn’t know that her father is the hero, a love interest for said daughter who doesn’t know what he’s getting into but goes in headfirst because of his blind devotion. It has a dying brother who makes the hero swear vengeance and an ex-partner who has turned evil and is out for revenge. Paul Bettany’s stilted dialogue includes lines like “Don’t get cocky” “It’s a war” and “It’s a trap.” The characters are flat, the plot predictable, and even the violent fight scenes are not impressive.
What bothered me most however were the vampires. The coolest part of a vampire is that he or she is often an exaggeration of human desires and flaws. Part of the horror of vampires is their deception and seductiveness. The vampires in Priest are reduced to eyeless monsters who jump, claw, and chomp. I’d almost rather a vampire sparkle in the daylight than be reduced to faceless monsters. Alright, that is a LIE. Vampires should never sparkle. But when you take away the human part of the vampire, they become monsters who can be conveniently killed between the hours of 5am and 8pm. Plainly, I’d watch a triple feature of Ghost Rider, Superman Returns, and Daredevil before I would watch Priest again. Save yourself $8.50.