Sunday, November 24, 2019

How I Would Have Done Priest (2011) Spoilers!

Awhile back, I wrote a blog post reviewing the 2011 post-apocalyptic Catholic vampire Western (try saying that five times fast) Priest. I gave the movie a 7.5 out of 10 because of all the missed opportunities they had, although it was still a pretty entertaining film in a fascinating world.

Well, anybody can criticize. Here's how I would have done the movie. This might get a little long, so imagine it as the first season of a television series if a three-hour mega-epic won't do. I mention how I would have done certain things a few times on a Myopia Movies episode, but here's the whole thing.

Act I

I would keep the film's beginning broadly the same, with the animated prologue explaining this alternate world's history and the priests' commando raid on the Santa Mira vampire hive. The main difference would be that the priests, when they're demobilized from the military, are returned to normal clerical duties rather than simply sent out into the world to make whatever living they can. The vampire attack on the Pace homestead can stay the same as well, although Lucy's dialogue would sound more like that of a frustrated teenage girl.

When we first meet the titular priest, he's officiating Mass and his parishioners, though superficially respectful, are clearly uncomfortable with him. When Mass is done, a little boy tries to talk to him, only for his mother to hustle him away. The priest, who is simply addressed as "Father George" (named for Saint George, the dragonslayer) then goes to confession. His confession is interspersed with further flashbacks to the attack on the Santa Mira hive and the apparent death of his friend Father Jude, Karl Urban's "Black Hat" character. The biblical Saint Jude would have had the same Hebrew name as Judas Iscariot, but owing to how tainted Judas is, "Jude" is used instead. It's clear Jude's death is still weighing on his conscience and his confessor--which would still be a Turing-type program like in the film--is of no help.

Meanwhile, we see the captive Lucy on the train and the reveal that Jude is still alive--and based on his eyes, not fully human.

George returns to his apartment and attacks the man who's following him, revealed to be Hicks, the young sheriff of the town of Augustine. He asks George for help in finding his missing niece Lucy and we can see on George's features this is a sore spot for him. George agrees and goes before his superiors in the Church to ask for a leave of absence from his priestly duties to search for his niece. Although Monsignor Chamberlain, one of the ruling bishops of the city, speaks in his defense, the senior cleric Monsignor Orelas disagrees. Orelas tells him the attack was mostly likely by common bandits and for a priest to leave on a vampire hunting mission would risk causing a panic. He's denied permission, even when he offers to make it seem like he's going on a spiritual pilgrimage or even a missionary trip to the outlying communities where the Church's power is weak.

Cut to the bar where we see George talking to Chamberlain. It's clear he's going to go anyway and Chamberlain is trying to dissuade him, taking up the party line that to defy Church authority is to defy God. I would have him support his argument with actual Scripture--many abusive pastors have used Psalm 105:15 to justify their behavior, while since the Church is also the governing authority, Romans 13:1-7 would also apply. George could retort with Scripture of his own--Mark 2:27, for example, or Hosea 8:4. Chamberlain reluctantly brings in some soldiers to arrest George and George proceeds to wipe the floor with them, although he's careful not to actually kill them. He leaves and makes one last stop to pray like in the film (making it even more clear that his defiance of Church authority is not a renunciation of his faith) before leaving with Hicks.

Act II

George and Hicks come to Augustine and George has a last moment with his mortally wounded brother Owen about the vampire attack and where they might have done. The conversation drops some interesting hints about George's family situation. Owen might fear God's punishment for some unnamed transgression and George reminds him of Deuteronomy 25:5, although he doesn't actually say what the passage is. He then administers the last rites to Owen as he dies.

After the burial of Owen and Shannon, Hicks and George set off for the vampire reservation. Along the way, Hicks (who is clearly too young to remember the war) asks George why the Church allowed even a small number of vampire survivors. George can make some comment about how the vampires are God's creations even if they are soulless predators and to annihilate them completely would be sacrilegious. George then reveals he knows Hicks is in love with Lucy and Hicks confesses that even though he was the town's sheriff, he was too intimidated by Owen to ask his blessing to marry Lucy and when he finally drummed up the courage, he arrived at the homestead when the vampires were leaving after the attack. He saw that Lucy was being carried off away alive and beats himself up for not trying to rescue her. George tells him that he did the right thing in seeking his help--he would have gotten killed for no purpose.

The arrival at the vampire reservation and like in the canonical film, find the Church's border guards missing and the creepy Familiars strangely uncooperative. They interrogate them and inspect the facility, finding the Church guards dead. The Familiars attack them and Hicks and George kill all but one--but it takes so long that night begins to fall and the vampires emerge from their crypts. There's a fight and it's clear that most of the vampires have left the reservation. They set off for Sola Mira, the nearest of the old vampire hives.

Meanwhile, Monsignor Orelas has summoned several surviving priests and orders them to arrest George. He will address them all by name--the Priestess, for example, will be named Deborah, after the only female Hebrew judge. Deborah seems to have been commander-in-chief with Barak the one actually commanding the army and physically fighting (we're not talking about a Jewish version of Xena Warrior Princess here), but Deborah is the closest to a Biblical female warrior I can think of. The names of the remaining priests aren't important, but I would have given them other Biblical names. For example, the Asian male priest who is killed by "Black Hat" in the actual film ("Jude" in my version), for example, would probably be named Peter, since in the Bible Peter attempted to physically defend Jesus when He was arrested and "Peter" is the only one we see actually attacking the villain. Deborah sets off for Sola Mira, while the three other priests head for the town of Jericho.

Meanwhile, back on the train, Jude is wining and dining Lucy, offering her rich foods instead of the simple peasant fare she's used to like in the actual film. He's playing on her resentment of her life back on the farm and revealing some of his own discontent with the Church and the priestly system. Although she opens up to him somewhat like in the film, she still hides a silver knife in her dress when he's not looking. When the vampire train arrives in Jericho, Jude attempts to recruit three of the priests sent after George and when they reject him, there's a full-on three-on-one battle where Jude and his vampire minions obliterate them. This shows just how dangerous Jude in, both as an individual combatant and in his ability to command vampires. Deborah finds George and Hicks at Sola Mira and we have something resembling the canonical film, including the hints of romantic feelings on her part. The trio then find Jericho in ruins and the priests crucified.

Deborah makes her move on George, citing how Shannon is dead, but George rejects her. The big reveal that George is Lucy's father and Owen had replaced him as Shannon's husband when the Church recruited George for the priesthood comes in this scene as well. Deuteronomy 25:5 is about a man marrying his brother's widow to continue the family line, while the Church could have abused Romans 6 ("dead to sin alive in Christ") to claim that George had died and therefore it's okay for Owen to marry his brother's "widow" per Deuteronomy 25:5. All this religious and romantic brooding is interrupted by everybody realizing the vampire train is heading for the main city, where the air pollution is so severe it blots out the sun, and there's going to be a massacre if it isn't stopped.


The fight to keep the vampire apocalypse train from reaching the city. Deborah sabotages the rails while George and Hicks attempt to rescue Lucy from Jude. During the battle on the train, Black Hat reveals that the queen of the vampires had fed him her blood to make him a hybrid creature that can withstand the sun. This blessing he intends to share with the people under the Church's control whether they like it or not--remember, no villain thinks of themselves as the villain and he was a Catholic priest at one point so he might view himself as still dispensing blessings. Ultimately the train is destroyed, but Black Hat's body is never found and the vampire queen's body isn't on the train either. While Hicks takes Lucy back home, George and Deborah return to the city and confront Monsignor Orelas, revealing the vampires are still a threat and that Orelas had attempted to prevent George from proving this. Monsignor Chamberlain uses this as an opportunity to have Orelas arrested and takes over as senior cleric, recalling the retired priests to service and declaring renewed war on the vampires.

The canonical film has a lot of obvious threads hanging--the vampire queen is obviously still out there, I'm pretty sure Black Hat isn't actually dead, and the Priestess is gathering the other retired priests for a renewed war in defiance of Monsignor Orelas--so it's a pity the film didn't make enough to justify a sequel. Not only could this have been the basis for a film series, but this could be a movie-length opener to a television show.

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