The Reverend hits UK cinemas on August 3rd and DVD on August 6th.
You certainly can’t knock The Reverend for ambition, even if it gets a few marks taken off for execution. It’s a semi-retelling of the biblical Book Of Job, set in modern day Britain and taking in elements of horror, revenge movies, graphic novels, vampire films, urban thrillers and superhero origin tales. That’s a lot to fit into 92 minutes and so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s a little unwieldy and sometimes can’t match the scale of its ideas to the quality of its dialogue.
The film starts out with Rutger Hauer and Italian horror legend Giovanni Lombardo Radice (both of whom appear for just a single scene) as Satan and God-like figures who agree to a pact over one man’s soul, with Satan saying he can take a good man, challenge him and have him cursing God’s name. We then move to the good man, Stuart Brennan’s (Risen) unnamed Reverend, who moves to a new village parish. While the place initially seems fairly idyllic, things take a strange turn when a woman turns up at the church and bites the Reverend on the neck, turning him into a vampire.
The race is on for the Rev’s soul, as while he now has a lust to drink blood, he has a choice of how to use it. He starts to uncover a web of corruption and illegal activity centred on an estate on the edge of the village. The Reverend begins to take on the ne’er do wells, drinking their blood and then staking them through the heart as they turn into a vampire. Slowly he works his way towards the kingpin who controls crime in the area.
It’s a slightly peculiar set-up and early on it seems like it’s going to be far too messy for its own good – unsure exactly what it wants to be or where it’s going. However by halfway through it begins to finds its feet and strikes forward as a kind of superhero tale.
There are undoubtedly issues with the script, which is sometimes far too on-the-nose and suffers two problems that bedevil too many indie screenplays. First is that while it knows where it’s got to go, finding a convincing way to get there with characters acting is believably human ways is sometimes problematic. For example when the Reverend is on his way to becoming a kind of avenging hell’s angel, the world’s most evil pimp shows up. He’s there to push the Rev’s journey in a particular direction, but he comes across more like a necessary prop for plot development than an actual person.
Second is the curse of Brit flick thrillers, a horrible voiceover that act as a crutch. The Reverend has one where we essentially hear his thoughts, but the dialogue is ugly and it quickly starts to feel like a rather cheap and unimaginative way to blurt things out to the audience, because they couldn’t think of a smart way to do it on screen.
While these things are rather grating, they don’t ruin the film, which still manages to be quite fun and the sheer ambition of the project is oddly infectious. After all, a vampiric, vengeance reaping vicar isn’t something you come across everyday, or a film that rather cleverly shifts through a range of genres, so that it only slowly reveals what it really is towards the end. It may not be based on an available comic book, but it doesn’t come as a surprise that the credits say it’s based on an as yet unpublished graphic novel.
By the end, I was thinking I’d quite like to see The Reverend 2, as it sets things up nicely for the further adventures of a rather intriguing central character (although hopefully the next one would jettison the voiceover and soften the rough edges). However, we’ll have to see whether enough people will overlook The Reverend’s flaws to revel in the ambition and moments of fun, and therefore make a sequel a realistic prospect.
Overall Verdict: While it starts out a bit messy and there are aspects of the film that really should have been smoothed out before it was shot, The Reverend is still a bold Brit flick that genre-hops until it reveals its superhero leanings.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac