At the movies: ‘Priest’ is unworthy of a blessing |

At the movies: ‘Priest’ is unworthy of a blessing

In the last few years, we've gotten used to the denizens of the vampire world having gorgeous, glittery skin and the romantic sensibilities of Don Juan.

While the undead of "Priest" may be more intimidating, that doesn't make them any less exasperating.

In a time not too far away in a world not too different from our own, the human populace has been devastated by the onslaught of vampires, a war that has gone on since the dawn of time. Imbued with heightened abilities to make up for their weaker minds, the soulless creatures were once posed to become the new rulers of the world.

Only with the intervention of highly trained, warrior priests overseen by The Church does mankind stand a chance. But, when the priests do their job too well, they are forced to remain as shunned outsiders in society as the vampire threat is contained.

But, the bloodsuckers have only been waiting for a new opportunity to strike, with the last of their hordes going after the extended family of the best fighter (Paul Bettany) the priests have to offer.

Provoked into going against the wishes of his superiors, Priest sets out into the barren world to find the monsters that captured his niece (Lily Collins).

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But, even the help of a dedicated sheriff (Cam Gigandet) and a former ally (Maggie Q) may not be enough to stop the forces of the vampire's new leader (Karl Urban), a seemingly invincible figure who's evolved beyond the weaknesses of his brethren.

There must be something about Bettany that makes him catnip for casting directors trying to find a holy man who's a little off.

His stints as a fallen angel in "Legion" and the albino monk of "The Da Vinci Code" seem to have put him on autopilot because he doesn't look like he cares the slightest bit about anything going on here, skulking around like a shogun with a crucifix inked on his face.

Urban is a tad more watchable as Black Hat, who has all the strength afforded to him by vampire blood without that pesky allergy of bursting into flame in sunlight. Gigandet is little more than a pretty face as lawman Hicks, whose usefulness barely extends beyond running a snake oil huckster (Brad Dourif) out of his town.

Christopher Plummer on the other hand is downright captivating in his few scenes as a despotic monsignor who oversees the order of the priests and commands them as if he thought he were God Himself.

Orwellian overtones permeate this tale, but Big Brother is replaced with Our Father, as The Church has taken over all of society, a futuristic place that looks like the city of "Blade Runner" with confessional booths scattered around the streets like so many Port-a-Potties. The finger-pointing at organized religion is half-hearted at best and not very well thought out.

But, what's really unbearable is a refusal to commit to a genre, be it horror, science fiction or even Western.

The cluster of everything imaginable is what makes this screen version of artist Min-Woo Hyung's graphic novel — known as manhwa in South Korea — so laughable, with the difference between the urban locations that Priest is used to and the desert landscape where the vampires roam looking like two different movies.

The monsters in question aren't even scary, resembling hairless, eyeless dogs with fangs and stubby wings, an effect not helped in 3D. Instead of cowering in fear as one of these shrieking things pops out of the screen at you, you'll likely be ready to try and punch it just to shut it up.

"Priest" offers hardly anything that hasn't already been seen in "Blade," "Van Helsing," and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." And, at least all of those had a hero who could make an irreverent quip work once in a while.

Horror lovers will hate it because it's too mild and the more devout — especially Catholics — are likely to have a small bone to pick regarding its anti-church leanings, which are vague anyway.

And, while the movie's totalitarian setting makes you think that some thought may have gone into it, once you expose that reasoning to the warming rays of the sun, that thought merely shrivels up and dies.

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1.5 out of 4 stars

87 minutes

Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet and Christopher Plummer