‘Legion,’ How holy art thou?

Priest (Paul Bettany) wants to do unholy things to vampires.

The American Western long ago left its imprint on virtually every genre of film known to man, but it’s with horror and science fiction that the mark remains most clearly. Think of the “Blade” series (who is Blade if not an urban, undead variation on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name?) or James Cameron’s “Avatar.” The time periods, fashions and levels of reality may change, but the themes of blazing trails and defending against enemies remain the same.

Director Scott Stewart’s new 3-D horror action yarn “Priest,” however, wears its Stetson-tipped heart on its sleeve. The film sees actor Paul Bettany playing the titular man of the cloth who breaks his vow of peace to rescue his niece from the fangs of vampires that ravage the earth, all the while rebelling against a corrupt church (led by Christopher Plummer).

“[Priest] has familiar ingredients but a new recipe,” says Stewart of his follow-up to this winter’s “Legion,” which also starred Bettany. “It has all these iconic elements,” he adds. “Motorcycles replace horses and the look of the film is mix of an 1890s period film and a post-apocalyptic world.”

Stewart’s background is in special effects, having worked extensively with his own company and with Industrial Light and Magic to create some of the screen’s grandest illusions. It’s this ability to understand the aesthetics and mechanics of special effects that made him the perfect choice for such a visual picture.

“Because of my effects work, I can visualize ideas myself,” says the director. “I can show people what I want the vampires and cities to look like. That was one of the ways we got the studio on board for how I wanted the film to be.”


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