From the opening scene - set in 50AD as an army (led by genre fave Udo Kier) abduct a strange mystical box from a team of cave-dwelling researchers, bagging the leader of the group up with a venomous snake and sending him plummeting to his death over the edge of a cliff - it's plain to see that this is a polished production with talent and money behind it.

The credits roll and it becomes further evident that we are in classy company. Aside the main players, names like Derek Jacobi (as a spooky library attendant) and Ron Moody don't go unnoticed.

Beneath the credits, we leap forward in history to 1299 - South West France. Again, Mr Kier attacks a group of people in order to attain the object of his desire ... the mystical box seen earlier! Note the self-flagellating monks with white Klansman-esque masks in this scene. The only thing more bizarre/disturbing is the sight of Kier with a beard! URGH!

And so, after the brief prologue the film starts proper in South West France, present day. Terence Stamp gives a solid performance as Magnus Martel - a self-made billionaire obsessed with the notion of locating the historical origins of the Loculus (the mythical box that has been passed from pillar to post throughout the ages) and returning it to it's proper place. Because, as we learn early into proceedings, the Loculus is a very powerful medium and if entrusted into the wrong hands could spell disaster for humanity ...

Next we get a typically wet afternoon in London, as Jacob/Jake (James D'arcy - WILDE) is released from prison. Upon his release he is immediately accosted by a stretch limo. Inside the luxury car, Jake is greeted by a TV image of his father, Magnus Martel. Martel apologises for the break-up of Jake's parents, thanks Jake for accepting a 3 year prison sentence (hacking financial records and earning his Dad a fortune) and offers to make Jake millions - if only he'll visit Martel's island retreat.

Naturally Jake agrees, and once upon the island is privy to the amazing labs set up by Magnus - consisting of amazing hi-tech computers, a work-force of astronomers, forensic scientists, archaeologists and a sexy young alchemist called Mira (Natasha Wightman - GOSFORD PARK). None of whom quite understand what it is they're striving to achieve!

What they're doing is attempting to unravel the mysterious coded messages inscribed on the outside of the Loculus box. So determined is Magnus to keep the results of their findings a secret, that no-one is allowed access to the box in it's entirety - and NO-ONE can know where he's hidden the actual box (the only living witness to the box's location is crucified when refusing to give it's location away. He then has his tongue removed, and Kier tosses it nonchalantly to a pair of hungry dogs!).

Magnus is adamant that the Loculus is an all-powerful box that has travelled throughout history having been sought by the notorious Knights Templar for several hundred years (there's a great flashback story concerning the Templars), and capable of unleashing Hell on earth if passed into the wrong hands.

Magnus tells his son Jake of the box and it's powers, and that the Masonic order previously known as the Knights Templar desire the box for their own unholy gain. Naturally, Jake is cynical - he's there because his Dad offered him a few million if he could use his computer-hacking skills to unscramble a few codes ...

But when Kier's shape-shifting wolverine mob advance on Martel's castle, it's literally a case of all Hell breaking loose as Jake listens from his bedroom, as Magnus is speared and skinned, the rest of his team being unceremoniously impaled with daggers and burned alive. One unfortunate is even thrown 20 feet to his death then eaten by hungry dogs!

Jake discovers Mira on the roof of the castle, and the couple flee to a B&B as the wolves near. The following day, Jake witnesses a news bulletin on the TV suggesting that his Dad's disappearance is due to the fact he was under serious fraud allegations at the time. Naturally, Jake smells a conspiracy theory ...!

But the threat of the Masonic order is very real, and Jake and Mira must traverse the globe in order to find the Loculus and unravel it's mysterious secrets ...

REVELATION is an original, intricately plotted horror thriller that offers more to the genre than most films these days. Intelligence, high production values and decent acting - to name but three major qualities. It's all the more staggering an achievement then, that it is perfectly balanced with lots of gruesome pit-stops and a pleasingly fast pace.

The film starts with lots of stylishly abstract moments (the video is 4:3, I'd love to see this in it's original ratio), and maintains a pleasingly consistent level of tension. D'arcy is strong - though it's old dears Stamp and Keir who steal the show. Kier's role should be thankless: he barely speaks. But, thanks to his manic eyes he dominates ever scene he's in - even an early sequence when he intimidates Stamp over the telephone! Wightman delivers the goods too (especially about 70 mins in - phwoar!).

The final 40 minutes offer much fun - not least of which is a quite bizarre (yet enjoyable) sex romp between D'arcy and Wightman -see above. There's also a couple of neat twists; the truth behind the Loculus (!); gas mask assassins; and some pretty twisted torture involving a household iron. Ouch!

Directed by Stuart Urban (TV's Our Friends In The North; Bergerac (!) and cinema's PREACHING TO THE PERVERTED), it's a well-made exercise in action/suspense that only falls at the final hurdle ...

Yeah, the end is a bit silly and as a result didn't satisfy. But at 111 minutes long, this film was never boring despite always demanding a modicum of intellectual engagement. It ain't a no-brainer!

It is a gruesome film, though not lingeringly so - and consequently it's nice to see the BBFC have been sensible in granting a 15 cert. Don't let this put you off though. If you have the patience to sit through a film with a story (albeit peppered with regular action and grue) then this will be right up your alley!

And any film that brings Udo Kier back to the genre we love him for, is a film worth praising!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome
Rated - 18