FEBRUARY 20, 2009
I got very excited to see a movie called Crowley arrive from Anchor Bay. Even though I’m pretty sure I’d know before it hit DVD, I momentarily thought it was some sort of Hatchet sequel with an older Victor Crowley coming back for one last go around, a la Rambo. But it’s actually Chemical Wedding, the horror movie written by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, under a new name. Oh well, Maiden rules, so this might be just as enticing, right?
Well, enticing maybe, but the finished product leaves much to be desired. Let’s start with the criminal lack of Maiden songs, despite promised on the box. "Can I Play With Madness?", for example, is limited to about 12 seconds’ worth of the song playing on someone’s kitchen radio. In fact, the 3 or 4 other Maiden songs (or Bruce solo efforts) are ALL played over the radio in brief snippets (not counting the end credits), which makes me wonder just how popular Maiden is in this movie’s town.
Instead, the titles of Maiden songs sort of figure into the plot. The whole movie’s about the rebirth of a "Moonchild", and of course, since it’s about Alestair Crowley, there’s some reference to "Six! SIX SIX! THE NUM-BER OF THE BEAST!" Yeah! Lyrics also pop in from time to time; a guy says “The evil that men do lives on and on”, for example. But unfortunately, the movie’s so slow at times, it’s just a reminder of the vastly more entertaining options you have at your disposal (indeed, shortly after watching the movie, I listened to "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" again).
Speaking of songs, the first scene has this wonderful little 1940s song about the Boogeyman (title is “Hush Hush Here Comes The Bogie Man”). Why it has never been used in a Halloween movie (makes a hell of a lot more sense than “Mr. Sandman”) is beyond me, but kudos to Dickinson and co. for putting it in instead of another Maiden song.
The movie itself is an occasionally incoherent (my first note simply reads “Huh?”) but almost always kind of repetitive account of Crowley’s attempts to be reborn via the sacrifice of a red haired woman. He does this by possessing a professor, randomly attacking homeless people and such, and proving his power by telling total strangers about their heritage. Those who oppose him include a guy who claims to be 50 but looks about 30, a pair of crusty old professors (one of whom speaks through a voicebox), and a girl from the school newspaper who seemingly needs to interview every person on campus for a single article. At just under 110 minutes, it eventually becomes one of those movies where you can remove a half hour chunk from the middle of the film and not lose a single plot point or disrupt the narrative flow in any meaningful way.
It also has a running gag about the Florida recount of 2000, which is mainly just there to set the date of the film and set up a “ooooh” moment at the end of the film, when one crusty old professor tells another that there are other universes that are worse than the ones they live in. Then they pan down to a newspaper that reads “Gore Wins Recount!” So in other words, these “worse alternative universes” include the one WE live in, where Bush won the election. Not that I will argue the point of the joke, but such half-assed political commentary in a movie really bugs me. They could have used anything to demonstrate the point, especially since the year 2000 isn’t a plot point. I would have gone with “Brokeback Mountain defeats Crash for Best Picture Award”, personally. Might even have made a stronger case for the “Our universe sucks” idea.
And that’s a shame, because it’s certainly an original take on the whole “ancient evil wants to be reborn” concept, and not without entertainment value. I mean, how often do you get to see an old man being whipped for his own pleasure? Furthermore, how often do you see the.... er, “results” of that pleasure splash on an ancient scroll? And furthermore...more, how often do you see someone print out a copy of that text and somehow get the “results” (OK, I mean jizz) all over their hands when they pick up the paper (and then smear it all over their shirt)?? That kind of stuff is gold!
I also like the idea of it being an old fart instead of some charismatic guy in his 30s (like the hero). You almost want to root for the guy, because he’s lovably old and bald. It’s like when my 80ish grandfather got unintentionally racist with a waiter at a Chinese restaurant (he complimented him on “doing alright for himself in this country” - the guy was probably born in New Hampshire): you can’t condone what he’s doing, but at the same time it’s kind of cute.
And the entertainment isn’t all based on old men acting in abhorrent manners. There’s a wonderfully dry sequence where the good guys are hypnotizing a witness, where the guy can only hear one of them and the hypnotist has to keep explaining to the other guy that the hypnotized guy can’t hear him. It’s funnier than it sounds. And I particularly like when the guy possessed by Crowley explains that December 25th has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus (who was born on January 6th - the discrepancy stems from using different calendars or something).
The commentary is much more entertaining than the film, and if the movie wasn’t so dialogue heavy, I would actually advise just listening to it right off the bat. Director Julian Pope, Producer Ben Timlett, and Dickinson talk nonstop, and not only delve into some of the literary and biblical references, but also explain quite a bit about the real Crowley. They even start knocking Lawnmower Man out of nowhere. And they do it all in the inimitable dryly hilarious British fashion. The making of isn’t as successful, and they allude to the campus where the film was shot as being haunted, but I can’t tell if they are joking or not. At any rate, the idea of Crowley’s ghost causing male students to kill themselves would make a pretty good movie too I think. There’s also damn near a half hour of deleted scenes, all presented without context, and some even include the slates (“action!”) at the beginning of the shot. Onscreen text explains why they were cut, which is always preferable than commentary, because then you have to sit through them twice. Some are OK, but since pace is the movie's biggest problem, at least I know they were trying to move things along.
I think as a sort of Pink Floyd The Wall style movie, with the music we know (in this case, Maiden songs) being used to tell the story instead of dialogue, would have worked much better. The movie’s kind of music video esque anyway (there are virtual reality suits, lots of scenes that seem to exist in a fever dream, etc.), and of course, more Maiden music certainly wouldn’t hurt. Indeed, the plot often seems like it was born out of an abandoned concept album. Instead we get this, which is about 20 minutes too long, and overly talky. There’s enough entertainment value contained within to warrant a rental, but not much else.
What say you?