CROWLEY aka CHEMICAL WEDDING - 2007
Bill and Ben Productions, Focus Films, Entertainment Motion Pictures (E-MOTION), Focus Films, CMG,
I came upon CROWLEY aka CHEMICAL WEDDING back in 2007 at the AFM (American Film Market) when Cinema Management Group (CMG) was trying to sell the distribution rights to various foreign markets including the U.S. 2 years later it gets released by Anchor Bay Entertainment / Starz.
From the start this was IRON MAIDEN frontman, Bruce Dickenson's movie, but after post production it was quickly realized that the only thing that could save this film was actor Simon Callow's acting. And Simon Callow, especially in the U.S., is largely a nobody. Could he pull it off?
The film starts with a bit of written nonsense by Aleister Crowley, a self-promoter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His schtick was being an expert on all things supernatural and if he couldn't present it, he'd fake it and flaunt it. He made a lot of promises like any charlatan but nothing ever came of them. Still he had his followers because Crowley loved to play the "Wicked Man". In turn of the century England, that merely meant someone who would gainsay whatever the current culture held sacred.
Sort of like Ward Churchill in 2001 only Crowley, being far more intelligent for his era, had staying power in life and continues, apparently, to have staying power in death. Truth be told though, if Crowley were alive today his old media tricks would make him about on par with Churchill; here today and gone tomorrow. As a Wicked Man today Aleister wouldn't hold a candle to modern pervs like Roman Polanski. Today you need more than a gimmick, you need talent. Even Crowley wannabees back in the late 20th century, like self-proclaimed Priest of Satanism, Anton LaVey, had to forever wait in the wings and accept the occasional crumb of media recognition. And that only on exceedingly slow news days. Aleister Crowley was definitely a man of his place and time. But is he a man of our time?
CROWLEY starts out with two young college boys going to meet the ailing Aleister Crowley (John Shrapnel: ALONE, MIRRORS). One, Symonds (Geoff Breton: BLUE MURDER [TV]) is an acolyte, the other, Alex (Sean Rea) is an acolyte's friend. Aleister is old and having a difficult time of it. Dying, poor, sickly, and largely forgotten by an ever increasingly industrial and science minded world, the best Aleister can muster for followers is gullible fan boys with otherworldy stars in their eyes. That and fellow conspiracy theorists he can't stand, who are stealing his ideas and claiming them as their own. People like psuedo-scientist Jack Parsons and self-proclaimed seer, Lafayette Ron Hubbard (creator of Scientology). But with his last gasp, old Crowley proves that he has some traces of supernatural power left.
To the present and American scientist, Joshua Mathers (Kal Webber: THE HIVE [TV]) has come to England to finish work on his project. Basically it's a booth where you get inside a kind of space suit and it will allow you to... well, nobody is sure.
I mean, the project is run by the world's biggest supercooled computer!
And the spacesuit is really this state of the art interactive suit!
I mean seriously, they've got all of these pieces of supposedly wonderful stuff, but just what do they plan to do with them? Wouldn't the press like to know? Especially the lovely ginger-haired reporter for the Cambridge school newspaper, Lia (Lucy Cudden). Joshua kind of likes this girl, about 15 years his junior, and promises an interview but keeps putting it off until he can properly pork her. Meanwhile, all we get about the science project involves a lot of meaningless technobabble. It's all tachyons this and quantum that without the slightest from the writers idea as to how either work or possibly relate: The kind of brain damaged goober-speak you'd get at a Wellness Expo.
Meanwhile, Joshua's assistant and computer tech, Victor Nuberg (Jud Charlton: LOVE POTION) turns out to be a very evil acolyte himself. Victor Nuberg is the name of the real Aleister Crowley's homosexual lover. Aleister was all over the map where sex was concerned and his death by heart failure was likely brought on by the numerous STD's he contracted. But Joshua doesn't know this and doesn't know that Victor is a bad egg. Victor has his own plans for the mysterious machine and what he wants to do is bring his dead lover back to life. For that he needs one mystery machine and one body to transfer the life force of Mr. Crowley. Victor does this, almost unwittingly, to the stuttering Cambridge professor, Haddo (Simon Callow: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA , THE CURSE OF KING TUT'S TOMB). Next thing you know, Aleister Crowley is alive and well inside the corpulent old body of Professor Haddo.
In no time flat, Crowley as Haddo is doing his best to derail his own plans. You see, Crowley only has three days to make his stay on earth permanent or else he goes back to the realm of the unliving. So does he lay low and strategize? Does he prepare for his ascendancy? Of course not! He spends all of his time offending the Cambridge professorial authority, drawing as much attention to himself as humanly possible, and putting his now old former apostle, Symonds (now played by Paul McDowell: THE THIRTY NINE STEPS) on alert. The script by Bruce Dickenson and Director Julian Doyle implies that Crowley's success will somehow be tied to who wins the election to become President of the United States of America (?). I should mention that this movie makes clear that this all takes place in 2000 and Bruce is a lifelong liberal?
Julien Doyle, as a director, gets the most out of his actors, though it seems that Kal Webber didn't have a lot to give. Having a recognized and prestigious theater actor like Simon Callow in your movie only means that he will chew up the scenery with great relish - which is to be expected if he going to behave like the super-self-indulgent Crowley.
The problem with this movie, from beginning to end, is the script. Tons of stuff is thrown out like its deeply thought provoking but none of it is. This is supposed to be a Horror Thriller movie but nothing scary ever happens. And having yet another old creep unleashed and slowly waddling through London is hardly cause for alarm, no matter where he came from. Seriously, what's one more pervert - even a cutthroat perv, in London? It's not like it won't happen anyway.
Short of someone trying to save Haddo's life, CHEMICAL WEDDING is all pointless. It wants to present the big scary issue that Crowley is returning to earth! Okay, but so what? It never reaches for the scale of say, Satan returning vis-a-vis THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN. And it doesn't have to be a being as all powerful as Satan. Even THE MUMMY or freaking Freddy Kruger would be something. But what we're shown of Crowley is a creeky, old, obese lothario much too busy with his various sex magiks, getting laid, masturbating, and so on, to be a threat to anyone - outside of the unlucky passerby who is wearing a nice suit. True, there's a certain ugh factor involved in watching a fat old man like Simon Callow get naked or near naked, but there's nothing scary about it at all.
Despite Bruce Dickenson's decades with IRON MAIDEN (he sung the scary songs, he didn't write them), he's no Horror Thriller writer. Julien is certainly a good director, he knows how to tell a story and get the most out of his actors. He knows how to set a mood through the camera. But he doesn't know how to write a scary movie or tell a scary story.
Bruce and Julien wanted to have a flick where Crowley the self-proclaimed Beast returns from the dead. But in CHEMICAL WEDDING, they didn't know what to do with him once he got here.
Two Shriek Girls.
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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