Vampires sink their computer-generated fangs into a post-apocalyptic vision of the Wild West in Scott Stewart’s action adventure, based on the graphic novel series by Hyung Min-woo.
Designed for the 3D format, Priest doesn’t propagate romantic visions of the immortal bloodsuckers a la Twilight.
Here, vampires are sun-starved, bat-like predators with transparent skins and no eyes, which compensate for their blindness with extraordinary hearing and smell.
Humans bitten by these monsters do not take on a similar form: instead they become familiars – pallid vampire slaves, condemned to do the creatures’ bidding during daylight hours.
Death is the preferable option.
Stewart’s film starts promisingly with an animated prologue, hand drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky to honour the angular, sketchy style of Min-woo’s original art, which provides a potted history of the war between humans and vampires.
Swathes of blood soak the screen, before we segue into live action and an ill-fated assault on the Sola Mira hive, led by Priest (Paul Bettany), a soldier of the Church trained in the art of killing vampires.
Flashing forward several months, the priests have been disbanded and have taken refuge in walled cities with the other humans under the control of the Clergy, led by Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer).
Alas, the vampire threat has not been nullified.
A menacing figure called Black Hat (Karl Urban) has secretly amassed an army of bloodsuckers, beginning its rampage in Outpost 10, home to Priest’s brother Owen (Stephen Moyer), his wife Shannon (Madchen Amick) and their 18-year-old daughter, Lucy (Lily Collins).
The parents are slain and Black Hat takes Lucy hostage, preparing to condemn her to a soulless existence as a familiar.
So Priest defies his vows to launch a rescue mission, flanked by Lucy’s beau, trigger-happy sheriff Hicks (Cam Gigandet), and a gifted warrior Priestess (Maggie Q).
Priest is a familiar and pedestrian tale of good versus evil, punctuated by well-choreographed action sequences that rely too heavily on digital effects.
Consequently, it’s difficult to feel fully immersed in Stewart’s vision since so much of it has clearly been conjured on a computer hard drive.
Bettany is morose and emotionless as an outcast who has dedicated his life to serving the Church, while Gigandet struggles to fulfil his role as the sidekick and comic relief.
He doesn’t react well when Priest tells him that he will not spare Lucy if she has been bitten.
“If she’s infected, I’ll kill her,” he promises.
Q performs gravity-defying acrobatics with aplomb in her skirmishes but it’s not enough to paper over the gaps in her underwritten role, and Urban goes through the motions with striking contact lenses.
The 3D is largely redundant, except in scenes at the vampire hive, where torch beams flicker on walls giving us a sense of the honeycomb-like tunnels stretching far into the distance.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: May 6 (UK and Ireland), 87 minutes.