Friday, June 1, 2012

Solomon Kane


Written and Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Starring: James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Pete Postlethwaite.

North Africa 1600:

"There was a time when the world was plunging into darkness and chaos. A time of Witchcraft and Sorcery, A time when no-one stood against evil". 

So begins this first live-action adaptation of Robert E. Howard's puritan Witch Hunter character, that perhaps to film fans of the sword and sorcery genre not as loved or recognised as his greatest creation Conan the Barbarian, which continues to burn bright.

Here this film presents a tale of redemption as we see Solomon, when he leaves home at an early age to embrace a life of greed and slaughter having thrown in his inheritance and title from his Lord father when he refused his duty as a second son to take Holy Orders. He is filled with rage that his incompetent and womanising older brother is to inherit all, and sees taking Holy Orders as an insult to his self-described skills.

Years later we see Solomon in North Africa pillaging and murdering Ottoman troops who are defending a castle, only for his own men to be taken by demons in the antechamber. Locked in throne room while he helplessly hears his own men get slaughters, the Devil's Reaper comes for Solomon's own soul to damn him to hell for all the evil and misery he has wrought.

Barely escaping, Solomon renounces violence (among other sins) and seeks Sanctuary in a church on the coast of England. After a year he is told to leave by the Head Priest because he had a vision from God that he should head back home, and soon enough after being accepted into a family of pilgrims who are heading to the Americas to start a new life, he has to take up the way of the sword after the family are slaughtered, save the mother and daughter. He makes a vow at the promise of a redeemed soul to rescue the pilgrim daughter Meredith from the evil clutches of the sorcerer Malachi. Malachi has taken his old ancestral home for his own, and his own elder brother, thought dead by his own hands as a boy, who serves as Malachi's demonic lieutenant.

Solomon battles possessed troops, ghouls, witches, deranged priests and his own family before saving Meredith and his own soul in his father's throne room. His soul redeemed he realises that God has chosen him to wipe evil off the face of the earth in all its forms.

Mind of the Hunter:

Solomon Kane is a reluctant hero that starts out on the wrong side of the coin. He has all the skills needed to be a Hunter of the Dark, but in his own anger that stems from what happened within his family at a young age, he believes that to make his own destiny he has to become a man of greatness through fear and bloodshed as a mercenary. Of course after he becomes the Puritan Witch-hunter he is destined to be, he still uses fear as a weapon but no longer against the innocent or those that do not deserve it.

But it takes an emissary of the Devil to come for his eternal soul for Solomon to look inside himself and realise that his pursuit of wealth and glory is a hollow and damnable venture, and all the countless deaths he has caused have now turned against him, all the damned souls he sent to hell are now hungry for his soul and will not relent.

Solomon gives his wealth to the Church and in taking Sanctuary devotes his body, soul and mind to peace. Unintentionally or not, I think this is the first step that a hunter must achieve on their journey. He must become pure in mind and spirit, almost becoming hollow so a new self can be reborn in his skin. The quest for the hunter is usually a personal one, one that is forged by a personal tragedy. I don't really know of any hunter (that I have read or viewed in a movie) that does what he does for kicks, or plain altruism but usually seeks to the destroy the very evil that ruined their life and happiness.

It makes me wonder whether Solomon would have taken up his role of a witch-hunter if his soul was not damned. If Meredith was still kidnapped by Malachi, and Solomon was travelling with the pilgrim family on a different path that wasn't for redemption, would he have still undertaken the quest? We see in the film where he believes Meredith to be dead, he gets mightily drunk in the tavern and awaits for the Devil's Reaper to come once more, he has truly given up. The thought of marching onwards to vanquish the evil from the land is now a dim memory, but his quest is rekindled when he hears Meredith's cries for him in the distance as he is crucified by Malachi's possessed troops. and furthermore when he discovers that Malachi has taken his old home as HQ, after been summoned there by his father as a healer years before.

Only towards the end of the film after his soul is redeemed does Solomon realise he was chosen by God to purge the land of witches and sorcery. Having been evil he possesses precious knowledge to take them down, as we see when he first discovers the identity of a witch in their camp. We could look at this as the outline of a Hero's quest where the hero at first is reluctant, then gains his stride and skill only to be disillusioned near breaking point before climbing out of the pit of despair and becoming triumphant as a Champion of Light. So in this instance for the witch hunter, a personal toll, and a personal gain must be exchanged and experienced before the mantle of the hunter is truly excepted. Solomon is a brutal and effective Hunter of the Dark, and I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and his methods. His fighting style is abrupt and deadly, perfect for a hunter, and I would enjoy seeing his further adventures, which I doubt since the first film was almost four years ago, and no sequel has been discussed or announced since.

My Score is 7.5/10.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Mind of the Hunter

Welcome to my blog devoted to the slayers and hunters of evil and darkness in all of their horrid and seductive forms. In a time when it seems that the "monster" is championed and a metaphor for the outsider in all of us, and the hunter a metaphor for the "evil" and oppression in humanity (and perhaps religious dogma), I thought I would take a refreshing look at the genre of horror and dark fantasy, perhaps in a ways go full circle to what is in vogue now.

I am a BIG fan of the horror genre, particularly the vampire genre of older cinema, such as the films of Hammer Horror, and the Euro-horror of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco and Mario Bava, which romanticised and certainly sexualised the vampire.

Since that time, and perhaps before it could be argued, evil had been reinterpreted as a form of seduction, to convey our secret desire for Sex, Blood, Death and Wealth, to live forever and not be a slave to the limits of Father Time. The vampire climbed from its mouldering tombs into our bedrooms, to no longer seek to devour us, but to seduce and love us. It gave us the fantasy to become something bigger where the rules of the human world don't apply and the mundane trappings of human life no longer exist. 

So much so now that TV shows, books and movies feature the monster as a protagonist, instead of an antagonist, and in some cases the hunters are seen as the oppressors of sensuality and power, instead of the liberators of evil. I have been guilty for quite a while of rooting for the monster, of revelling in "monster" culture, even before shows such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries became popular, where now even the "average joe" finds merit in the genre, whereas 10-20 years ago, anyone that watched a Dracula film or read Anne Rice was a "vampire freak".

Well I feel like turning that on the head now, and putting the monster back in its place as a devourer and destroyer of innocence and life, and where a human reluctant or not, rises to the challenge to take down a ghastly creature that is greater than itself by taking up the mantle of a hunter. That is the one thing that I admire about hunters. They are only human (mostly) and yet they train to attain peak physical (almost supernatural) performance to destroy a creature that possesses all the powers of Hell and/or Darkness. 

Such a man or woman should be revered for their dedication and sacrifice, and hopefully this blog will do just that by getting into the mind of said hunter with every article....