Osage Reviews...PRIEST - UNRATED (Blu-ray 2D; Sony Pictures/Screen Gems) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 1 Old 09-06-11, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Osage Reviews...PRIEST - UNRATED (Blu-ray 2D; Sony Pictures/Screen Gems)

Releasing Studio: Sony Pictures (Screen Gems)
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p High Definition; 2.40:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Rating: Not Rated
Director: Scott Stewart
Starring Cast: Paul Bettany, Maggie Q, Brad Dourif, Christopher Plummer



Let’s take a look at the phenom that’s currently riding a tidal wave of success, both on the silver screen and the TV show circuit – what I’m referring to is the public’s utterly fanatical fascination with vampires and the different takes on them. , even a cousin of mine is so wrapped up in this utter she herself believes she’s a vampire – of course, this is a cousin that lives across the country, far from my line of sight, whom I never have to deal with, but that’s how close this ridiculous obsession has hit for many people. Where early pieces of cinema portrayed Dracula and others of his kind as Euro trash, babbling in seductive drawls later imitated by the likes of characters on Sesame Street and decked out in, as James Woods would say, “rented formal wear,” the evolution of these mysterious beings from motion picture perspectives is nothing if not interesting and wildly varying – we have seen different filmmakers’ takes on the vampire concept, ranging from John Carpenter’s Vampires, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, Fright Night, Van Helsing and 30 Days of Night to the more current teen/20-something oriented Twilight film franchise, which has contributed to this “necessity” to create cable shows such as HBO’s True Blood and a gaggle of network TV spinoffs. Oh – let’s not forget about the immortal Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, shall we?

What is this fascination between young people and the existence of vampires? Are we to believe these idiots populating high schools and middle schools today have been infiltrated by actual blood sucking creatures? Whatever the reason for this explosive popularity in film culture vamps, kids thinking and believing they’re vamps and the utter that populates our broadcast TV airwaves that deals with vamps, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a hot culture commodity today. Scott Stewart’s Priest, based on what has been called an “acclaimed graphic novel,” takes yet a different approach to telling a vampire story, complete with eyeless, hairless CGI creatures that are terrifying enough on their own without being bloodsuckers of the night – but like so many other films that are supposedly based on these “graphic novels” a la 30 Days of Night and Constantine just to name two, Priest feels like one of these films…actually more like a mix between Mad Max, Resident Evil and some future-world occult picture. I liked the trailers when I saw them, but wasn’t expecting much in the way of entertainment once I sat down with the Blu-ray – but you know something? I liked Priest a lot, and will be buying it for, hopefully, this Halloween season.

As it is with so many of these films based on the graphic novels, Priest was a difficult project to bring to the screen in that its storyline and timelines are all over the place and just downright abstract – if you watch the special features on the Blu-ray, you can get a sense of how the filmmakers were attempting to create a place and time that is indeed strange, as it’s some kind of post-apocalyptic world that shows hints of American history with old Western towns and sheriffs, yet also portrays people on nitrous-injected super cycles racing through deserts surrounded by technological gadgets. There were obvious hints of Mad Max and Demolition Man on display here, with visions of a deserted, wasteland society even prevalent in films like Resident Evil: Extinction. As the viewer, we’re not sure if it’s the future or the past, or somewhere inbetween – but the idea is, portrayed through an effective opening sequence done in interesting animated graphics and detailed narration, that there has always been a war of man against vampires, and when man wasn’t strong enough to fight the creatures any longer, the church trained special “priests” with extraordinary abilities and powers to hunt them down and slay them. The priests are hooded warriors with tattooed crosses on their foreheads, not wielding any firearms, but instead using acrobatic strengths and specialized weapons to cut through the flesh of the vamps and kill them. However, eventually, society was pushed underground, and the church became a totalitarian presence, pretty much controlling everything and everyone, forcing them to enter computerized confessionals in herds like cattle, while at the same time forcing the priests underground as well, and mixed into society.

Into this world comes Paul Bettany’s superstrong priest character, who ends up losing one of his team members in a vampire “hive” during what we think is a dream sequence in the opening frames of the film – the notion is that this man who was once a priest has been taken to the underground lair of this vampire hive where the queen they have been hunting transforms him into the first “human vampire.” That is, he can walk upright and walk like a human, looking like a human if not for the pointy teeth and yellow eyes, much like how this creature has been portrayed in most of the Hollywood takes. In contrast, the actual vamps of Priest, as I mentioned, are eyeless “fleshy” looking beasts, moving with lightning fast reflexes and sporting ridiculously sharp teeth – I suppose a nice contrast to the strange-talking vamps of 30 Days of Night who were effective in their own right. In another early sequence, a family is sitting around their table in an “outpost” of this deserted society, when a vampire attack takes place, wounding the husband and father, while killing the mother and wife and abducting the teenage daughter. Bettany discovers later on, after a visit by a sheriff of an outlaw “town” who apparently was the teen girl’s boyfriend or something, that the man wounded in this attack was actually Bettany’s brother, and the girl has been kidnapped and taken by vampires. Bettany is instructed by the church and its elder leader (Christopher Plummer) not to take any action on his own when he asks the clergy to reinstate his priest powers and licenses so he can search for what he believes is his niece. When the church refuses to reinstate him as a priest, Bettany goes on the mission with this sheriff anyway. When word spreads back to the church that Bettany has disobeyed them, they enlist the remaining members of Bettany’s team – including the deliciously fit and trim Maggie Q – to go after him and shut him down.

This sheriff and Bettany enter what appears to be a town out of America’s Old West period, where a salesman offering holy water and other anti-vampire solutions (the great Brad Dourif, The Exorcist III, Graveyard Shift) is selling this stuff out of his horse drawn wagon. When Bettany and the sheriff run him out of this town, it’s only a matter of time until the human vampire responsible for Bettany’s niece’s abduction, and a former member of Bettany’s priest team, arrives in the town along with some other nasty vamps to feast on some flesh. The other three remaining priests from Bettany’s team confront this new powerful human/vampire hybrid, but he’s too strong for even them, and they’re systematically murdered and crucified in the middle of the town.

So now Bettany, Maggie Q and this sheriff make their way to a massive vampire hive for a final confrontation between them and these vamps following the lead of their queen – and the ex-team member of Bettany’s, and once there, they engage in exciting fight sequences with what is known as a “hive guardian,” humongous, hungry and vicious monsters that appear as vampires to protect the sleeping vamps within the hive’s catacombs. These fight sequences between Maggie Q and Bettany and the creatures are amazing, the kind of stuff the best comic adaptations are made of, and we get a sense of the priests’ extraordinary powers and fighting abilities. Finally, when the guardians are defeated by the warrior priests, they see what a new family of vamps has been after – they have carved a section out of the hive where an army of them have flown towards populated cities in the distance. The three come up with a plan to stop the train containing this new hybrid vampire and his legion (as well as Bettany’s kidnapped niece) which is rocketing towards the populated cities, and it involves derailing the train with high explosives. What ensues is a very exciting, taut and energy-ridden final fight sequence between, of course, Bettany’s highly skilled priest vampire killer character and his ex-team member who has been transformed into one of the most powerful creatures ever to walk amongst vampires – this new hybrid vamp is simply too powerful for even Bettany to take, as the two of them duke it out punch for punch atop the racing train, Bettany pretty much having his handed to him but staying in the fight. Meanwhile, the sheriff attempts to free the kidnapped girl in the cargo holds below, while fighting off vampires and “half” vampire creatures (called “ordinaries” or something like that in the film) as Maggie Q takes out a group of half vamps in the desert just beyond the train tracks in a very exciting fight sequence. As Bettany and his ex-team member continue to duke it out atop the train, Bettany eventually uses a specialized weapon Maggie Q gave him before getting on the train – the only thing that gives him the upper hand in the fight against the hybrid ex-team member. The train ends up blowing to pieces from the explosives Maggie Q put on the tracks, taking the powerful hybrid vamp with it, and the kidnapped girl is rescued.

It is here that Bettany and Maggie Q divulge to the sheriff character that this girl is actually Bettany’s daughter – through some clumsy plot twist, Bettany’s brother was merely watching over the girl for him while Bettany was her real father.

Priest was an exciting, moving vampire film – dark in many places, but refreshingly free from the idiotic teenage slant given to most of these, with wildly engaging fight sequences and a showy display of cool weaponry. Bettany turns in a good, solid performance as the powerful priest with awesome fight and combat abilities, until of course he runs into super vamp from his old team, acting with a cool confidence almost like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. Further, Maggie Q kicks some serious behind in this as the chick that don’t take any nonsense, right up there with Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow in Iron Man 2, while Christopher Plummer turns in a notable performance as the clergy leader devoted to keeping everyone in society under the rule of the church. This was an entertaining flick, one that I watched twice – once on my own for serious review purposes and again the next night with my wife who didn’t like it at first but who grew to towards the end – and one which I will be purchasing when I get around to it.


Sony’s 2.40:1 Blu-ray transfer of Priest sparkled in many areas on the 1080p encode here – the outdoor, sunlit sequences reminded me very much of the studio’s transfer of Resident Evil: Extinction, with ridiculously high levels of contrast, a feeling of realistic detail on close-ups of hot, sun-drenched rocks and pebbles and a slightly gritty yet engaging clarity. When the sequences got dark and black, the picture shrank in impact – some sequences were marred with a slight bit of shadow detail loss, but this is nit picking greatly, trust me. Overall, this was a solid, detailed 2D Blu-ray transfer with good definition and imaging.


Surprisingly, the English DTS-HD Master Audio track accompanying Priest wasn’t as wildly effective and exciting as I expected – the action sequences sure did rock, with a solid bass presence and aggressive panning to the surrounds, but the dialogue track was recorded ridiculously low on my review sample, and I couldn’t make out what a lot of the characters were saying most of the time. When I raised the master volume of my system to compensate, I was blown through the back wall of my room when action scenes returned. Again, checking my system settings, nothing was out of place – my center channel was still 2dB hot over the mains for dialogue compensation.

But those action sequences – wow. While in a general sense not as demo worthy as I thought it would be, the Master Audio mix on Priest when the weapons were being thrown around or the roar of the vampires kicked in was chilling. Effects were placed in the surrounds at precisely the correct times and points, creating a realistic environment that takes you, at times, beyond the boundaries of your listening room. Bass was ample and punchy, if not downright gut-pounding, while the only other negative I can speak of was the aforementioned low dialogue track issue.


Pretty good. I can definitely recommend a rental, and if you were enthusiastic about it as I was, I can go ahead and recommend a purchase. An exciting vampire film, one that hasn’t come along since 30 Days of Night and one which also – more importantly – doesn’t really cater to the drooling, babbling young imbeciles of our society raised on a steady diet of Twilight and True Blood.

It will make a great watch for this upcoming Halloween season, as well.

As always, thanks for reading – I will have another review of the Bill Clinton/Tony Blair friendship film, HBO’s The Special Relationship, up soon!

Last edited by Osage_Winter; 09-06-11 at 09:25 PM.
Osage_Winter is offline  


2d , bluray , gems , osage , pictures or screen , reviewspriest , sony , unrated

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