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DVD Review: ‘The Reverend’

★★☆☆☆

Rutger Hauer plays Satan, Doug Bradley is a priest, Shane Ritchie camps it up as a vile pimp and Tamer Hassan aims for gentrified land owner. That sentence alone should make Neil Jones’ low-budget British horror worth watching, but The Reverend (2011) is unfortunately hamstrung by a muddled screenplay, unconvincing central performance and a lack of knowing that its casting would otherwise suggest might be present.

Opening with a one scene cameo from the dapper Hauer bargaining with God (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) over the soul of our protagonist, the film tells the tale of the newly ordained reverend (Stuart Brennan) who has been given his first country parish. Things go rather wrong when he is bitten and transforms into a pseudo-vampire, initially fighting his urges but eventually deciding to embrace them and use his newfound abilities to fight evil.

With Shane Ritchie hamming it up as grotesque pimp Prince and Tamer Hassan’s bizarrely affected turn as local landlord come gangster Harold Hicks, The Reverend cries out for more sly comic touches to break up its otherwise serious tone. The film lacks a sense of fun that might well have made for a more enjoyable experience. Purporting to be based loosely on The Book of Job, the film never goes deep enough into the dilemmas facing the reverend, and supporting characters are introduced to be depraved for a scene before being chomped by our bloodsucking pastor.

Jones’ direction is at some moments stylish – there are a couple of scenes in which the lighting and framing stand out – but at others utterly perfunctory and unappealing and he is not helped by the majority of performances being fairly stilted. The most problematic in this aspect is Stuart Brennan, who plays the everyday British reverend well enough but is out of his depth when it comes to the soul searching or to convincing as a vicious bloodthirsty avenger.

The Reverend’s grand designs were perhaps beyond the current abilities of its cast and director so whilst there are flashes of potential, it’s sadly lost in a muddled film that never gets the pulse racing or engages the brain. If you really want to see a film about a vampire priest, you’d be a lot better off checking out Park Chan-wook’s Thirst (2009).

Ben Nicholson