Priest: End of the World, Part Two

Priest Onesheet

From the front of my house I can see up the road about half a mile and down the road about half a mile. I can even see a bend of the Missouri River. And a good chunk of the sky. But that’s about all I can see. No Rapture. It’s been raining a lot lately. My suitcases are like wet cardboard. I tried to get back into my house, but the new owners seem to think it’s theirs now. Nobody’s coming for me. Not even Reverend Campy. It may not be the end of the world, but it’s sure the end of my world! Of course, the lines for the Rapture are guaranteed to be longer than the lines for the rehabbed Star Wars ride at Disneyland, so maybe I should just wait a bit longer. It’s just that there’s a curb-shaped indentation in my butt, and I just wish the neighbors would stop laughing at me.

To kill some time, I thought I’d take myself to see Priest, another good-vs.-evil movie, this time with vampires instead of devils. I went to a new theater in a newish shopping center in Omaha. Besides the movie theater, there’s an upscale bar, a natural foods restaurant, a cupcake bakery, and a crowded farmers’ market. Don’t these people know the world is ending?

Before the movie, they showed the usual string of commercials, including the new Honda Civic ad where the Ninja girl jumps off her balcony and through the sunroof into her Civic, driving it away. The words “Do not attempt” appear at the bottom of the screen. Really? I mean, seriously? Who has to be told that it’s probably not a good idea to jump off a building into your car, even if it has a sunroof? Is this the world we live in, one where people have to be told the obvious? I hope whatever happens in the Rapture, I don’t end up with the dopes who need to be told this. Or has it already happened, and am I stuck with them? Could it be that I’m one of the dopes? Nahhh!

“There has always been mankind, and there have always been vampires,” Christopher Plummer intones as the movie begins. Except he very quickly points out to our hero, Paul Bettany, that there are no more vampires, that they were all eradicated or sealed up inside hives. The warrior priests who eradicated them have been forced into menial jobs and are shunned by the populace, mostly because of the big brown crosses tattooed between their eyes. Despite the claim that there are no more vampires, people are forced to live inside walled cities that resemble prisons.

Like the priest and seminarian in The Exorcist and The Rite, Bettany’s character has questions, doubts—not about his faith, necessarily, but about what the Church has told him: “To go against the Church is to go against God.” That is, if the Church says there are no vampires, then there are no vampires, even if a vampire head rolls right up to your feet. Why is the Church so dead set against the obvious? Well, I guess we’ll see in the sequel.

In the future, the Church is more like an armed militia. The cross is inscribed inside a circle, making it look more like a gun sight than a symbol of faith. And, when needed, the cross transforms into a ninja throwing star. Something Dustin Hoffman might have made good use of at the end of The Graduate.

Our boy Bettany scowls throughout the movie as if he were doing an impression of Clint Eastwood. He learns that his niece has been kidnapped by the vampires whose existence the Church denies. It’s Mad Max meets The Searchers. As this lame recycling lumbers from one set-piece to another, you realize that Bettany’s scowling because he’s had to take on another quasi-religious end-of-the-world comic book movie (see–or rather, don’t see–Legion).

Karl Urban plays the best friend/nemesis with a lot of scowling and scraping of fingernails, which you see a lot of in The Rite, too. I guess when you see a character scrape his nails, you know he’s really really evil. And if that’s not a giveaway, Urban wears a black hat and utters lines like “If you’re not committing sin, you’re not having fun.”

The movie also has a gaggle of vampires, looking a little like eight-foot eyeless lizards that have been turned inside-out given mouths like a northern pike’s. You can almost see the 1’s and 0’s of the underlying computer coding. They have less personality than the targets in a carnival game. They’re all teeth and gooey skin, but they’re no real match for our priest. They’re there to be sliced and diced.

In short, this Priest can’t be forgiven its sins.

P.S. Reverend Campy, are you out there? Campster-man? You owe me! As a motivated seller, I took a loss on my house, my suitcases and clothes are ruined, and now that paradise is off the table, I’m kind of bored with this old world. You promised me a chance at salvation! Or is everyone gone, and am I the only one left? Come to think of it, there were only two other people in the theater! I missed the Rapture! In that case, why did I bother writing about Priest? Heck, if I’m one of the last people on Earth, why did I bother even going to Priest?

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Author: Brent Spencer

I'm a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, and screenplays. My most recent book, a memoir, is Rattlesnake Daddy: A Son's Search for His Father. I live on an acreage in eastern Nebraska and teach creative writing at Creighton University. You can find out more about me and at http://brentspencerwriter.com. (Photo credit: Miriam Berkley)

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