Sunday, September 8, 2013

Horror Film Review

Solomon Kane (2009):  I've waited years, literally years for this film to become available.  I blame the French.  Why?  Well, because it's from France.  Oddly, it's in English and takes place in England but was filmed in the Czech Republic.  So was it worth the wait?  Oui.

Kane (James Purefoy) is a vicious Brit pirate in 1600 who, during a ruthless pillaging in North Africa, runs into Satan's reaper and is informed his soul is damned.  After escaping the hell-spawn's clutches, Kane suddenly decides a peaceful monastic life is for him.  Apparently, the devil won't find him if he remains nonviolent.  But the monks boot him out for reasons neither he nor I understand.  Wandering the countryside, Kane learns that an evil sorcerer named Malachi (Jason Flemyng) is terrorizing the locals with demon-possessed henchmen led by a masked brute known as the Overlord.  Remaining nonviolent, Kane joins the Crowthorns, a Puritan family who's goal is to voyage to the new world (America).  There's father William (Pete Postlethwaite), mother Katherine (Alice Krige), older son Edward (Anthony Wilks), younger son Samuel (Patrick Hurd-Wood), and daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood).  There's an ambush, Kane still won't fight and watches a bad guy slit Samuel's throat.  That does it.  But while he's whooping ass and whooping it very well indeed, the henchmen kill Edward, mortally wound William, and kidnap Meredith.  William makes Kane vow to bring Meredith back and promises him that if he does, his soul will be redeemed.  The hunt is on. 

Flashback to Kane as a teen.  Father Josiah (Max von Sydow) tells Solomon that because his older brother Marcus will inherit the family estate (they're rich), Solomon is to go away with priests to be schooled.  He refuses, is disowned, and runs away.  Not far into his running, he comes across Marcus assaulting a girl.  They fight and Marcus pushes him off a cliff.  So there's some guilt.  Back in the present, Kane learns that Malachi is headquartered in his father's castle and that Meredith has been taken there.  After some trouble, Kane is discovered by members of is old pirate crew who have been fighting Malachi's minions.  They team up and fight their way into the castle where Kane finds his father chained up in the dungeon.  Turns out Marcus didn't die but lingered in a coma.  Josiah brought in Malachi to revive him, not caring that the sorcerer used the dark arts and demon-conjuring to get the job done.  Marcus came back but wasn't really Marcus anymore (you can guess who he became).  Malachi then installed himself on Josiah's throne and began his reign of terror.  The final battle occurs in the throne room first between Kane and the Overlord, and then between Kane and Malachi.  It's a hell of a thing.

The bleakness in this film is damn near visceral.  There's no sun and nonstop rain.  Mud, blood, fear, and pain are ubiquitous, almost characters themselves.  At one point, a fellow kidnap victim tells Meredith to accept their fate because no one, not even God, will save them.  The matter-of-fact hopelessness with which she states this is jarring and more than a little depressing.  However, it's an absolute genius way to set up the climax.  Because we know someone is most definitely coming, and he is pissed.

My main complaint with Solomon Kane is a familiar one.  Killing a kid.  Slitting pre-teen Samuel's throat while he's begging Kane in a terrified whisper to save him is going too far.  I know, I know...the reality is that much worse atrocities were committed back in the day.  But just because it's an historical fact doesn't mean they're obligated to show it in a movie.  My other, smaller beef is that they didn't flesh out Malachi's character enough.  He's evil, sure, but why?  How did he come to be such a noxious prick?  Ultimately, though, Satan is the real bad guy here.  We all know how he became a noxious prick. 


Acting:  Nary a false note to be had.  With the likes of Postlethwaite, von Sydow, and Krige, what did you expect?  Purefoy, though, is a marvel and commands the screen. 
Story:  Redemption tales certainly aren't anything new, yet you'll be hard pressed to find one as fun as this.
Direction:  It couldn't have been easy.  The logistics must have been a nightmare.  Director Michael J. Bassett pulled it off, though, in spades.
Production Values:  A $45 million movie that looks like it cost twice that.  Think how Lord of the Rings would have looked if Peter Jackson had been clinically depressed.
Gore/FX:  Plenty of blood, mostly from wicked swordplay.  I should point out that they don't actually show Samuel's throat getting slit.  They do, however, show Kane getting crucified (remember earlier when I said Kane had some trouble?).  The CGI is spectacular, especially of the demon Malachi summons toward the end.  Remember the Balrog from LOTR?
Scares:   A few intense scenes.
Ending:  As happy as it could be given the circumstances.  Leaves the door open for more Kane adventures.
Verdict:  Should you watch Solomon Kane?  I cannot think of a reason not to.  It was well worth the wait. 

Rating:  4 out of 5

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