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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.01.11] movie review horror

Year: 2011
Directors: Neil Jones
Writers: Neil Jones
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Pojectcyclops
Rating: 4 out of 10

The Reverend is director Neil Jones’ new film, and it’s a bit of a mess, but it earns points for sheer ambition. The film is an adaptation of a comic book series that I can only find patchy information on and seems to have not yet been released. It concerns a young reverend in a sleepy English village who discovers a shady underworld of crime and corruption and becomes involved with supernatural forces after being targeted in a high stakes religious wager between the head of the church and someone who may be the Devil Himself. Sounds like fun but this micro-budgeted affair contains as many missteps as it does sure footing. Short story is that I wanted to like this more than I did and it felt like the school friend who’s always being bullied, but who you can’t be bothered to defend because he keeps attracting the bully’s attention.

In the opening scene we meet Rutger Hauer in a brief cameo as he makes a pact with a sword wielding bishop and they trade barely comprehensible threats before deciding to use the Reverend as an example of how easy it is to corrupt and otherwise ‘good man’. We never see or here from Hauer again. Long time Jones collaborator Stuart Brennan plays our nameless hero as an innocent and earnest man who falls victim to a Job-like curse after being infected with a form of vampirism, and struggles to deal with his blood lust urges. After the initial shock he gains confidence and begins a campaign not only to rid the town of its seedier elements, but also to rescue a put upon prostitute and turn his flagging church into a well respected parish.

Here in lies the problem: If you are making a very low budget semi-serious action/horror/thriller which will include cheap, domestic looking sets, silly clichés and actresses as flat-out bad as Emily Booth (that’s right folks) then for gods sake make it a comedy too. I’ve learnt over the years that a painfully earnest attempt to tell a story seriously but on a no-frills budget will always result in something unintentionally silly or just poorly constructed, but if you add laughs to the mix the audience will respond much better. I’m not telling Jones and Brennan that that they should have gone down an exclusively comedy path, but that their attempt at serious fare here has resulted in a dud which could have been saved if they’d made it slightly more tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. It must have been tempting after the success of Jones’ previous film, the well received “The Lost” to make something gritty and high-octane, but the character Brennan inhabits is just too nice-and-simple to take seriously as a hero. He’s polite, scholarly and respectful to everyone in the way you’d expect an English reverend to be, so it just doesn’t square when he starts beating on pimps and interrupting underground boxing tournaments. I’m all for the gore and violence but without a wink to the camera as the cheap effects rattle around we’re just spotting the goofs and waiting for the mercifully short running time to expire.

I never thought I’d type this, but one actor who really does shine here in a role that works perfectly is Alfie Moon himself, Shane Richie, who plays Booth’s pimp and chews the scenery with obvious relish. If the film had been about his character becoming a vampire then I’d have had a much better time.

The Reverend passes the time and certainly doesn’t insult our intelligence, but overall it’s just suffers too much from that latent 2000’s obsession with being so dark and gritty and serious that we forget we’ve paid to have fun at the movies, coupled with budget constraints it just adds up to something at once over-the-top and surprisingly dull. An ‘A’ for effort but a solid ‘D’ for execution.

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