Tuesday, November 5, 2013
THE DANGERS OF MISGUIDED FAITH: A Review Of SEA OF DUST
When people think classic horror movies a huge percentage immediately think Universal monsters but there was another studio, a bit further down the road of time that created some rather wonderful films as well. That studio was HAMMER. Dark, Gothic and oftentimes stunningly beautiful, HAMMER churned out Horror films with a unique artistic flair that was oftentimes strange, sometimes downright confusing but always, ALWAYS theatrical. With all of the homages flooding the scene nowadays it was only a matter of time before someone took a crack at creating a HAMMER homage..Thank God that someone was Scott Bunt with his film SEA OF DUST.
SEA OF DUST weaves the tale of Prester John. Once a mythical generous Christian king said to be descended from one of the original Magi and revered in European legends, Prester has become dark and sadistic, morphed into an evil being obsessed with the brutal punishment of those he sees wicked and the domination of all of mankind due to the atrocities committed in his name and in the name of God during the various crusades. The undying belief in him has caused him to manifest, pouring over from the metaphysical realm into our own, taking control of weak willed and, stealing their souls and bringing them to his realm while leaving their bodies empty vessels to control at his leisure. Stefan Christoph, a young gentleman and physician in training is sent to answer a call made to his over busy mentor to the small village of Heidelberg where Prester has taken the most control in our world. Also within the small burg is Elizabeth, Stefan's true love. Elizabeth does not share this undying love however, and her father despises him, sending him away from the property and banning him for life. Angry and torn Stefan leaves the place and along his way to fulfill his duty and answer the call that brought him to the town in the first place he encounters a young woman in the road, seemingly in a trance and unconscious from a fainting spell he immediately brings her to the doctor whose call he was answering. Soon after he learns of Prester John, taking the Legend for madness until Prestor pulls poor Stefan into his world, demanding that he become a warrior for his righteousness masked evil conquest. Can Stefan hope to save his beloved Elizabeth and the rest of the town, possibly the world from this twisted abomination of faithfulness embodied..and more importantly how can one defeat anther's blind faith to begin with?
A twisted yet wonderful blend of HAMMER style horror and 80's style Gore, with a rye twist of dark comedy and camp. SEA OF DUST Is at once nostalgia inducingly familiar and refreshingly original.
The story here is wonderfully handled, very dreamlike and bizarre, with a very subtle element of humor and self awareness. The pacing was appropriately slow and yet never boring, just not falling into sacrificing great storytelling and buildup for cheap thrills and roller coaster like continuous action like the majority of the films today. This story presented each sequence as if it were a precious jewel, examining every angle before moving to the next. It also goes out of it's way to confound and really mess with your head like so many of the HAMMER classics managed to do. The underlying morals of the danger of misguided faith and the adherence to mythos created by the bloodthirsty rather then the truly righteous as well as the fact that we, as species create our own reality shaped by our ideas and perception, are not only very powerful but extremely relevant especially in today's world where wars are being waged, not against mere hundreds nor thousands but millions and oftentimes by war mongers and torturers claiming to be acting under the guidance of God.
The characters here were all excellently acted, my personal favorite being the characters of Prester John who comes across as a terrifyingly self confident and convicted mixture of Rasputin and Dracula, with his militant control of his devout and dominated followers, and Stefan who comes across (strangely enough) almost like an adult Huck Finn, very sure of himself and almost arrogant on the surface but completely confident and afraid underneath, His paradoxical personality works wonderfully to mirror how alot of us, the viewers really are, and his being such an identifiable character really helps to make this thing work.
The cinematography here was absolutely stunning. While done a high quality digital camera, filters were used to give the film that Pathecolor look us HAMMER film fans are so fond of (alot of reviewers are misidentifying it as technecolor but Pathecolor has a muted, Gothic quality to it whereas technecolor is bright and vibrant to the point of almost glowing) But it doesn't stop with mere color, we also see the use of colorful leaves cascading down during dream sequences to symbolize change, we see fog at various points to show the decent into darker territory, we see some interesting old school water effects to showcase immersion of the character into Prester John's realm for the first time, almost like an unholy baptism. This film is simply put, gorgeous to the max. Each scene translating into a fluid poetry of sights, really capturing the stage play-like feel of the original HAMMER films while also remaining different enough to be well beyond being mere imitation.
The gore here was over the top and improbable enough that it came across as slapstick like and very much comical in nature. It may have been realistic at some points but at no point did it seem mean or lingering, other then the whipping scenes which were meant to be more serious in their analogy of having faith beat into us, and how it creates empty shelled slaves rather then truly devoted followers.
I give this film two middle fingers cut off and sanded to the bone. It's artsy, it's well done on all ends and it manages the near impossible in that it serves as a truly spectacular homage and a delightfully unique film all it's own. Buy this one, you won't regret it.