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Film / Priest (2011)

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A 2011 action film, very loosely based on the manhwa of the same name.

For most of recorded history, mankind was at war with a race of nocturnal predators known as vampires. While humanity possessed the advantage of technology, the vampires were faster, stronger, and at least as numerous as their human prey, and over centuries of conflict, humanity slowly lost ground against its ancient enemy. In order to avoid extinction, humanity retreated to heavily-fortified cities, living under the protection and guidance of the Church; meanwhile, the war against the vampires continued without end, eventually reducing much of the world to a blighted, radioactive wasteland. However, all this changed when the Church discovered a new weapon in their fight against the darkness: exceptional men and women with the physical prowess to defeat vampires in personal combat. Known only as "priests," these heroes allowed humanity to finally win the war against their blood-sucking foes.

In the years following the end of the war, the remaining vampires have been herded onto guarded reservations, while the priests have disappeared into obscurity, attempting to re-integrate into a society that really has no place for them. However, rumors still persist that the vampire menace has not been completely eradicated, despite the Church's attempts to quash them. And when one retired priest hears word that his niece has been kidnapped in a vampire raid, he will do whatever it takes to get her back, even if it means defying the will of the all-powerful Church....

No relation to the 1994 film of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • After the End: As mentioned above, the world outside Cathedral City is a blasted wasteland, where Determined Homesteaders try to scratch out a meager living from the ruined earth. The occasional raids by rabid packs of vampires don't help, and neither do the Church's attempts to deny that such things even happen anymore.
  • Alternate History: Mankind fought against vampires and a theocracy rules what's left of society.
  • And Show It to You: After one of the priests does a whole lot of fancy moves, Black Hat just rips his heart out with one move.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Part of what makes Priests so good against vampires is their intimate knowledge of vampire physiology, allowing them to predict where the vampires will move.
  • Badass Normal: Sheriff Hicks doesn't have the Priest's supernatural training and skill, yet he is able to earn his trust by slicing an bullet mid-air with a throwing knife.
  • Baddie Flattery: Black Hat complements Lucy's innate skill as she fruitlessly tries to stab him.
  • Bald of Evil: The vampire familiars seemingly lose all their hair after being turned.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Black Hat does this when Lucy attacks him with a kitchen knife. He's super-strong and it probably isn't that sharp, so it's better than most examples.
  • Blade on a Rope: Priestess uses a chain with a blade at the end to fight the bikers.
  • Bring It: Black Hat to the other two Priests after he rips the heart out of their comrade.
  • Child Soldiers: It's heavily implied that Priests are taken up as children and trained as vampire-killing machines by the Church, if the Owen's comments after reuniting with his brother are any indication.
  • Celibate Hero: All priests are required to take a vow of celibacy. This weighs particularly heavily on our hero the Priest (who was forced to leave behind the love of this life and his newborn daughter) and our heroine the Priestess (who clearly has feelings for the Priest).
  • Church of Saint Genericus: The Church that governs the remnants of civilized society is referred to as just that, the Church. It's denomination is unclear though its definitely Christian in nature (due to the presence of crosses and bibles). Considering that in this world took a significantly different direction than ours, it probably doesn't match any real-life counterpart.
  • Combat Stilettos: The Priestess fights in boots with a solid three-inch heel on them.
  • Conducting the Carnage: Black Hat is 'conducting' the music playing on a gramophone record while his vampire horde slaughter the entire population of Jericho before battling and crucifying a few Priests. It's shown he doesn't even hear the gramophone and simply treats the massacre around him as his music.
  • Confusion Fu: Vampires bounce around in a bizarre and unpredictable manner when they move, making it difficult for anyone without specialized training to get a solid hit on one.
  • Cool Bike: The priests ride a type that resembles a jet engine on wheels.
  • Cool Train: Black Hat and his army of vampires ride around on one. Its design may be a Shout-Out to the cover of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil".
  • Corrupt Church: "To go against the church is to go against God." And that barely scratches the surface.
  • Crapsack World: Pick your poison. You can live outside the cities, barely scratching out a living with little to no protection from bandits, not to mention possible vampire attacks. Or you can live in the cities, where massive clouds of soot have blocked out the sun, belief in God is mandatory, and disobedience is synonymous with heresy.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • In the final duel between the Priest and Black Hat, the Priest is clearly outmatched. The only times he manages to get in anything even resembling a solid hit is when he catches Black Hat by surprise, and this provides at most a brief respite before the pummeling resumes.
    • This basically happens to anyone that fights Black Hat, due to him being part priest and part vampire, combining the speed and strength of a vampire with the combat training of a priest.
    • Also implied to have happened throughout the majority of the war between humans and vampires, as despite their technological advances the humans are continually outmatched by the vampires. The opening narration even says that even though humanity can move during the day and the vampires can't, it wasn't enough. The priests are the only things that save humanity from extinction.
  • Decapitation Presentation: At the end of the movie, the Priest tosses a vampire head at the foot of the Monsignor. He is not pleased.
  • Dhampyr: Black Hat, as a result of drinking the Queen's blood, now has all the vampire's strengths and lacks the vulnerability to the sun.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Black Hat 'conducts' the music playing on a gramaphone record while vampires tear apart the people of Jericho.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Priests eschew firearms in their fight against the vampires, preferring various forms of bladed weaponry instead (both melee and thrown). Why this is the case is never really made clear in the film, considering the Priest demonstrates in one scene that he's a fantastic shot. It probably has something to do with how the priests' ill-defined vampire-slaying powers work.
    • The apparent uselessness of guns in most vampire attacks is probably meant to be demonstrated early on, when the sheriff, despite being established as a crack shot himself, misses a relatively close vampire three times.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Religious trappings aside, the movie Priest contains no overtly supernatural occurrences of any kind; even the priests' various physics-defying stunts can be rationalized as low-level telekinesis or something similarly pseudoscientific. Conversely, in the original manhwa, God's existence is a given and the plot revolves around hunting down Fallen Angels.
  • Doom Troops: The soldiers in the cities wear this sort of armor. Not that it does any good against the Priest.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Priest says this to a Familiar when he threatens him with a knife to make him talk.
    Priest: Now, we can do this the easy way or... (the Familiar spits on his face) God. I've always preferred the hard way.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Priest and the Priestess.
  • Eyeless Face: All the full blooded vampires lack eyes.
    Black Hat: The church teaches us that the eyes are the windows to the soul. And that since vampire evolved without eyes, it is a soulless creature, to be eradicated. And I have seen the soul of the vampire, and let me tell you that it is far more pure than that of any man.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The priest who would eventually become Black Hat.
  • Facial Markings: All priests are marked by a cross branded/tattooed in the center of their face.
  • Fanservice: The way-too-brief shot of a shirtless Paul Bettany.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: For some reason, rather than wipe out the vampires, the Church built reservations for them to live in with only a few guards and low walls stopping them getting out.
  • Gaia's Lament: The land outside the cities is made of desolate desert and the cities themselves are choked with pollution spewing out of factories.
  • Giant Mook: The vampire hive guardian.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While Black Hat is the one orchestrating the vampires' plan, he is still subservient to the Vampire Queen, who is never faced directly by the priests and is still alive and on the loose after Black Hat's apparent death.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It looks like the Priestess is going to do this to destroy the vampire train. Turns out that she has the bike on auto-pilot and jumps off at the last second.
  • Informed Ability: The Priests are supposed to be so superhumanly good that only five of them in a city are enough to stop hundreds of vampires note , yet the movie contradicts that right in the opening by showing a squad of around ten Priests getting routed by no more than a few dozen (onscreen) vampires, with the future Black Hat seemingly dragged to his death by only two vampires.
  • In Name Only: Apparently, the reason the adaptation was so loose was because director Scott Stewart was afraid people would accuse him of ripping off his previous film, Legion, which is also religious in nature, features sci-fi battles involving angels, and stars Paul Bettany.
  • In the Hood: The standard priest outfit is a Badass Longcoat with a medieval monk-style hood. It makes for quite an imposing silhouette with the hood up.
  • Join or Die: After killing one of the priests, Black Hat offers the others to join him if they don't want to suffer the same fate. Of course, they refuse. They're dead by the next scene.
    Black Hat: Brothers, you have a choice. You can follow in my footsteps, or you can follow in his.
  • Jump Physics: Priests are capable of leaping incredible distances, dropping incredible distances without being hurt, and boosting off thrown rocks in midair to get more height on a jump.
  • Jump Scare: The infamous "Don't Scream" scene at the end of almost every single commercial.
  • Kid Sidekick: Sheriff Hicks. He's a bit older than most examples, but still significantly younger than the Priest.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Bloody chunks rain down on the Priestess as she stands in a post-asskicking stance after slicing up a biker in mid-air.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: As it turns out, the Priest isn't Lucy's uncle after all. He fathered her with Shannon before being collected by the Church, and asked his brother Owen to play the part so that she'd have a father growing up.
  • Medium Blending: The backstory explaining the war is told in a drawn format, animated by Genndy Tartakovsky, no less!
  • No Name Given: None of the priests seem to have real names anymore; our hero and heroine are listed simply as Priest and Priestess in the credits, for example. Our main villain doesn't seem to have a name, either, and is listed simply as Black Hat. Of course, Black Hat is a former priest.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Makes up most of the soundtrack.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Priest throws his shuriken-crosses at the Hive Guardian...and it doesn't die. Also the expression on the two other priests after Black Hat takes down the first priest in Jericho.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're pale, slimy, eyeless humanoids that look like a cross between a naked mole rat and a Licker from Resident Evil. Their social structure also resembles that of naked mole rats or bees. Also, they're a totally separate species from humans, with their bites only turning humans into the ghoul-like Familiars. Unless, like Black Hat, you're fed a queen's blood, in which case you become a hybrid "human vampire".
  • Papa Wolf: Invoked. Black Hat kidnapped Lucy so her father, the Priest, would come after her. He was counting on the Priest's desire to protect her being so strong that he would forsake his vows to do it. In turn, the other Priests would be dispatched to apprehend him, leaving the city defenseless.
  • Person with the Clothing: Black Hat.
  • Punk Punk: Cathedral City is a Cyberpunk dystopia, while the wastelands have a distinct Desert Punk aesthetic, invoking the Wild West setting of the original manhwa.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Seeing the movie again with the knowledge that Priest is Lucy's real father lends greater context to Owen's stern frustration with her, as he has to put up with her brattiness despite taking her in to raise as his daughter.
    • It also makes the Priest's saddened reaction to hearing about Shannon's death make a lot more sense, as no one would mourn a sister-in-law's death that much when their brother and niece are still alive.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Black Hat drains the Snake Oil Salesman and turns him into a Familiar as his 'compensation'.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The Priest forsakes his vows to rescue Lucy, and the Priestess likewise had no apparent intention of arresting him as ordered. At the end, she mentions that the remaining Priests will join the fight no matter what the Church says.
  • Settle for Sibling: Shannon married Owen after Priest left for the Church.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the film, the Priest points out to the assembled congregation that the ruined train contains the bodies of hundreds of vampires — and that their queen isn't among them. Later, the Priestess more or less states outright that the surviving priests will be gathering to continue the war, with or without the Church's help.
  • Sexy Priest: What did you expect with hot actors like Paul Bettany and Maggie Q?
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Both the Priest and the Priestess exhibit signs of this, and it's implied to be a common problem among the surviving priests.
  • Shoot the Dog: The Priest knows fully well that Lucy may have been turned into a familiar by the vampires, and is prepared to end her suffering if that's the case. Hicks seems to have some trouble wrapping his head around this concept.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The vampires are nocturnal, gaunt, eyeless, wall-crawling feral beasts that build enormous hives, infect humans and have a queen... totally not a Xenomorph Xerox.
    • One could replace the opening cinematic with that of Dragon Age: Origins and not notice. Repeat after me, the Priests are not Grey Wardens...
  • Signature Headgear: Black Hat takes his sobriquet from the snazzy black cowboy hat he wears. It's implied to be all that's left of him following the train explosion at the climax of the movie.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: An obvious nod to this trope is the man trying to sell holy water to ward off vampires even though there is no hint that it would do anything against them...until the sheriff shoots the bottle out of his hand.
  • Spiteful Spit: A Familiar spits on Priest's face while being interrogated.
  • Stepping Stones in the Sky: When the Priest is fighting the hive guardian, the Priestess throws some rocks that he jumps on while they are still in the air to get close enough to slash its underside.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes : Black Hat has a lovely pair.
  • Sword Limbo: The Priestess limbos under the blade of one bikers while grabbing a dropped blade.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Familiars are ordinary humans who have been tainted by a vampire's bite. All the ones we see seem possessed of this mindset, though whether it's a side-effect of the conversion process or whether they've always been like that isn't made clear.
  • That Liar Lies: When Priest reveals that the vampire menace still exists, the monsignor accuses him of being a liar.
    Monsignor: LIES ! This man is a charlatan!
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Albeit a very simplistic one. In the confession booth scene, the monsignor's replies are vaguely relevant (vague enough to literally respond to any situation with the same few phrases) to the Priest's inquiries, presumably using a Turing program. The Priest's annoyed reaction indicates this is hardly the first time he's used the booth.
  • The Theocracy: Humanity lives under the authority of the Church, though their control seems to be weaker outside of the cities.
  • Traintop Battle: Between the Priest and Black Hat.
  • The Unfought: The vampire queen—or a vampire queen—is briefly glimpsed in Black Hat's flashback, but is still around and a major threat by the end.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Pretty much all of human society towards the Priests following the end of the war. The Priestess mentions that she had trouble finding a job after the war was over and eventually was working as a garbage collector.
  • Vampire Hunter: The priests are written as such.
  • Villain Ball:
    • The entire story is one giant Batman Gambit from the villain to divert all of the Priests away from Cathedral City so his vampires can invade it unopposed. Except, it's later shown that he can just casually kill three of them by himself, proving that most of them don't pose a threat to him anyway. Plus, since he definitely knows that the Church will do anything to cover up the impending vampire attack (as his entire gambit hinges on the Church excommunicating Priest for acknowledging the vampire threat and sending all the remaining priests away from the city to capture him), not going with the needless diversion plot would have allowed him to attack the city in total surprise, wreaking untold havoc and permanently shattering everyone's faith in the Church before the priests could be dispatched against him (and even then only Priest stands a small chance against him in a one-on-one fight anyway).
    • Black Hat actually manages to defeat Priest and pin him to a wall, but then he elects to kill him slowly by burning instead, allowing him to have his Heroic Second Wind and free himself.
  • Vow of Celibacy: The titular priests (who are more like warriors than priests as commonly understood, but are still associated with the Church) are required to be celibate. The main character left his lover and newborn daughter behind when he joined.
  • The War Has Just Begun: Priest says this to the monsignor at the end of the film.
    Monsignor: The war is over, Priest!
    Priest: No, it's just beginning.
  • Warrior Monk: Every priest.
  • We Can Rule Together: During the climatic fight, Black Hat tries to convince the Priest to join him in serving the Queen. The Priest refuses.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Black Hat used to be a priest that fought alongside the Priest before they were ambushed and he was dragged into the vampire hive.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot follows a jaded, badass soldier who has trouble adjusting to society after the end of the war. He is still in love with his Old Flame who married his brother. The brother and sister-in-law are killed by an enemy race and their daughter is kidnapped. The soldier teams up with a young man to save his niece/possible daughter, though he makes it clear that if the girl has been "corrupted" by the enemy, he won't hesitate to kill her. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's the same plot as the classic John Ford film,The Searchers. The attack on the farm plays out very similarly to the raid in the earlier film.
  • The Worf Effect: Priests are superhuman warriors specially trained to kill vampires. Black Hat demonstrates his personal prowess by taking down three of them by himself (two of them offscreen).
    Hicks: Killing three priests? What kind of vampire could do something like that?
  • Written by the Winners: Or in this case, Written By The Ones In Charge. If vampires have been defeated by the church, and they're a bunch of unclean blood-sucking abominations, why are they given places to stay and servants to keep them fed? And why does the Church use massive, pollution-spewing factories that blot out the sun even though they have hyper-efficient solar power generators? I mean, it's like the Corrupt Church is literally setting up an all-you-can-drain mortal buffet while keeping their followers completely unaware of what's going to—wait a minute...
  • Xenomorph Xerox: The vampires are eye-less humanoid monsters with sharp teeth that lurk in darkness, hunt and infect humans, and live in a hive ruled by a much larger and deadlier queen.