Black-clad Withstander (Rutger Hauer) holds a meeting with man-in-white Almighty (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), in which he proposes they fight over the soul of the most righteous mortal man he’s ever encountered.

The challenge is accepted, and Withstander’s sexy accomplice (Marcia Do Vales) is immediately despatched to a nearby village church to set their game in play: she attacks the new Reverend there (Stuart Brennan), biting a huge chunk out of his neck.

The following morning, the Reverend awakes with a curious sensation. As time goes by, and especially when nosy neighbour Mrs Jenkins (Helen Griffin) cuts her hand in his kitchen sink, he realises he has been left with a desire for blood.

"Is this a test?" the Reverend muses to himself at one point. Indeed it is, and it’s one he’s not necessarily going to pass with flying colours as his bloodlust steadily increases. He tries to kill himself, to no avail. He then horrifies himself by feasting on a dog when his hunger becomes too great.

When he rings his superior Andrews (Doug Bradley) with his concerns, he’s told to "just embrace it". Unbeknownst to the Reverend, Andrews has already been revealed to viewers as being the Almighty’s right-hand man …

Meanwhile, the Reverend tries desperately to maintain a level of normality in his otherwise seemingly quiet village. He wants to get to know the people of his parish, and begins by meeting with the local landlord, Harold (Tamer Hassan). He quickly realises that Harold is something of a heavy-handed villain, however.

That’s not the only ugliness the Reverend witnesses. He also encounters the rudest barman in the world, the troubled Tracy (Emily Booth) who divides her time between hosting an archive horror film club and selling her wares as a prostitute, her violent, foul-mouthed pimp Prince (Shane Ritchie), and sadistic punter Big Bazza (Dominic Burns).

Someone needs to clean this village up. And who better to do that than a Holy man with a deep sense of morality combined with the powers and killing instincts of a vampire …?

As the screenplay takes pains to spell out, the tale of the Reverend’s plight is based somewhat on the Book of Job from the Bible. The weight of a righteous man’s suffering at God’s will seems heavy in concept, and yet writer-director Neil Jones’ manages to come up short of delivering on the source inspiration’s potential. It’s a shame as the synopsis alone presents a highly intriguing premise.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a huge surprise. For all that the British horror scene is amazingly busy at the moment, there seems to be a real drought in terms of quality offerings being produced. While THE REVEREND has its moments, there are sadly not enough of them to help it buck this trend.

An impressively renowned cast assures interest from the start (the opening scene, for example, offers Hauer, Radice and Bradley in one room) but the truth is most of them aren’t in the film for long – and when they are, they turn in dodgy performances. Hauer in particular eschews the grizzled gravitas of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, instead opting to turn in a slice of ridiculous over-acting.

Brennan is the only contributor who brings any semblance of verisimilitude to his character. In contrast, Ritchie seems to think he’s appearing in some Dickensian tale.

The tone of the film is nicely dark, marking a welcome step away from the over-reliance in tongue-in-cheek schlock that the UK genre seems to have these days. But there’s too much cliché here for us to take the film as seriously as it wants to be: the Reverend’s transition into full-blown bloodsucker involves the sweats, erotic hallucinations, Bible research (as well as consulting a website called – wait for it – "All about vampires") and an ill-advised narration; Hassan and Booth are both saddled with horribly stereotypical characters (and the latter really struggles to convince in what is a comparatively grimy role for her); Hauer and Radice deserve better than to be playing representations of God and the devil with such pretentious dialogue.

Gory in parts but otherwise talky and slowed down further by an abundance of bit-characters whose sub-plots go nowhere, THE REVEREND is uneven and its hold on the audience slackens as it wears on through its overlong 92-minute running time.

On the plus side, the production design is nice, the cinematography is consistently attractive and Alan Deacon’s score is effective. When he gets it right, Jones’ script does impress with some smart dialogue. And, as mentioned above, there’s always Brennan. He’s a convincing lead who’s good at eliciting audience empathy, and this is enough to keep the viewer watching.

THE REVEREND is presented uncut in 16x9 widescreen. It looks decent enough, with sharp visuals and strong colour schemes.

English audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 tracks. Both mixes serve the film well.

An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu, allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

There’s only one extra related to the main feature: a 13-minute’Behind the Scenes’ documentary offering some decent on-shoot footage interspersed with on-screen contributions from each of the principal cast members, gushing about the script.

The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for THE INNKEEPERS, THE MONK and STAKELAND.

Jones has potential as both a writer and a director. His film is not without points of interest (chiefly, the cast). But THE REVEREND falls some way short of being half as good as its premise and literary inspiration would suggest.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome Distribution
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review