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Priest taps into western genre

The American western long ago dug its dusty claws into virtually everygenre of film known to man, but it’s with horror and science fictionthat the mark remains most resonant.

The American western long ago dug its dusty claws into virtually every genre of film known to man, but it’s with horror and science fiction that the mark remains most resonant.

Think of any picture directed by John Carpenter, from Assault on Precinct 13 to Ghosts of Mars (even Halloween has shades of the ghost town showdown), or the Blade series (who is Blade if not an urban, undead variation on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name) or James Cameron’s Aliens and Avatar. The time periods, fashions and levels of reality may change, but the themes of blazing trails and defending against enemies within — and without — remain the same.

Director Scott Stewart’s new 3-D horror action yarn Priest however, makes little effort to hide its inspiration, wearing its Stetson tipped heart on its sleeve. The film sees actor Paul Bettany playing the titular man of the cloth who breaks his vows of peace to rescue his niece from the fangs of the hordes of vampires that ravage the Earth, all the while running afoul of a corrupt church (led by Christopher Plummer).

“(Priest) has familiar ingredients but a new recipe,” says Stewart. “It has all these iconic elements. Motorcycles replace horses and the look of the film is a mix of the 1890’s 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 & Magic creating 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 FX work I can visualize ideas myself,” Stewart said. “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.”

Priest is clearly a fantasy, yet with its title and blatantly theological themes, it is certainly set to court controversy. Stewart, however, isn’t worried about any backlash.

“God is not a bad guy in this movie. Some people interpreted Legion as that way which it was not. It’s about an oppressive government that is just as bad as the church, but that’s in the context of the film.”

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