|Directed by||Scott Stewart|
|Written by||Cory Goodman|
by Min-Woo Hyung
|Edited by||Lisa Zeno Churgin|
|Music by||Christopher Young|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$78.3 million|
Priest is a 2011 American action horror film directed by Scott Stewart and stars Paul Bettany as the title character. It is loosely based on the Korean comic of the same name by Hyung Min-woo, in turn based on the computer game Blood by Monolith Productions. Set in an alternate universe where-in humanity and vampires have warred for centuries, after the last Vampire War, a veteran Warrior Priest lives in obscurity until his niece (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires.
The film was released on May 13, 2011. The film earned over $78 million at the box office against a $60 million production budget, but it was panned by critics, who praised the film's visual style and art direction while criticizing the movie's use of genre clichés, writing, acting, editing and action scenes.
A centuries-long war between humans and vampires has devastated the planet's surface and led to a theocracy under an organization called The Church. Despite the vampires' vulnerability to sunlight, the vampires' greater strength and speed made them impossible to defeat until humanity sheltered themselves in giant walled cities and trained a group of elite warriors, the Priests, which turned the tide. After the war ended, the majority of the vampires were killed, while the remainder were placed in reservations. With the war over, the Clergy disbanded the Priests. Outside the walled cities, some humans seek out a living, free from the totalitarian control of The Church.
Priest (Paul Bettany) is approached by Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the sheriff of a free town, Augustine. Priest learns that his brother, Owen, and his wife, Shannon, who was Priest's girlfriend before he was recruited by the clergy, were killed in a vampire attack, and Priest's niece, Lucy (Lily Collins), was kidnapped. Hicks asks for Priest's help in rescuing Lucy. Priest asks the Church to reinstate his authority, but leader Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) does not believe the vampire story and refuses. Priest defiantly leaves the city and Orelas sends three Priests and a Priestess (Maggie Q) to bring him back.
Priest and Hicks arrive at Nightshade Reservation where humans called Familiars, people infected with a pathogen that makes them subservient to the vampires, live alongside a number of the surviving vampires. After a fierce battle, the pair discovers that most of the vampires have taken shelter in Sola Mira, which was thought to have been abandoned after the war. Priestess, one of Priest's team during the failed attack on the Hive, joins them at Sola Mira. The trio destroys a Hive Guardian vampire, then discovers that the vampires have bred a new army and dug a tunnel out of the mountain towards a town called Jericho. The other three Priests have arrived at Jericho just as night falls and an armored train arrives, unleashing hundreds of vampires upon the population. The vampires are led by a powerful and mysterious human wearing a black hat (Karl Urban). When the three Priests reject Black Hat's offer to join him, he kills them all.
The next morning, Priest, Priestess, and Hicks arrive in Jericho and discover the town empty and the three dead Priests crucified. Priest realizes that the vampires have been using the trains to travel by day and attack the free towns by night, with the walled cities at the end of the train line. Hicks believes the cities are likewise protected by the sun, but Priest explains that the cities' massive clouds of smoke and ash have permanently deprived them of sunlight., and if the train reaches one of the cities, the attack will be a slaughter.
Hicks, who is in love with Lucy, threatens Priest, believing that Priest intends to kill her if she has been infected by the vampires. Priestess explains that he cannot do so, because Lucy is actually Priest's daughter, and that Owen stepped in as a husband and a father when Priest was taken by the Church. Lucy was never told the truth about her parentage.
While Priestess rushes ahead to plant a bomb on the railroad tracks, Priest and Hicks board the train to rescue Lucy. Battling vampires and Familiars, the two are finally overpowered by Black Hat just as they find Lucy. Black Hat is revealed as the priest who was lost in the attack on Sola Mira. After being captured, the vampire Queen gave him her blood, turning him into the first Vampire-Human hybrid who can survive the sun. As Priest fights Black Hat, Lucy discovers the truth about her parentage. On the tracks ahead of the train, Priestess battles several Familiars, but one of them destroys the detonator for the explosives. Instead, she mounts the explosives on her motorbike and drives it into the train engine. The explosion and subsequent derailment kill the vampires and engulfs Black Hat in flames, while Hicks, Priest, Priestess, and Lucy are able to escape.
Priest returns to the city and confronts Monsignor Orelas during Mass, telling him of the burnt train containing the vampires' bodies, but not the Queen's. He proves this by throwing a vampire head onto the floor and shocking everyone in the room. Orelas still refuses to believe him, declaring that the war is over, while Priest says that it is just beginning. Outside the city Priest meets Priestess, who confirms that other Priests have been notified and will meet them at a rendezvous point.
- Paul Bettany as Priest
- Karl Urban as Black Hat
- Cam Gigandet as Hicks
- Maggie Q as Priestess
- Lily Collins as Lucy Pace
- Brad Dourif as Salesman
- Stephen Moyer as Owen Pace
- Christopher Plummer as Monsignor Orelas
- Alan Dale as Monsignor Chamberlain
- Mädchen Amick as Shannon Pace
- Jacob Hopkins as Boy
- Dave Florek as Crocker
- Joel Polinsky as Dr. Tomlin
- Josh Wingate as Familiar
The priests of our story are like Jedi knights. They have these supernatural abilities to fight vampires and they saved humanity before the movie even begins. Now, a generation later, society has moved on from war, and the priests are like pariahs. They're almost like Vietnam vets—they've been cast aside by society and they're now reviled and feared.— Director Scott Stewart
The project was first announced in March 2005 when the studio Screen Gems bought Goodman's spec script. In January 2006, Andrew Douglas, who directed The Amityville Horror, was attached to direct Priest. In June 2006, actor Gerard Butler entered negotiations to star as the title character, and filming was scheduled to start in Mexico on October 1, 2006. Filming did not proceed and, by three years later, director Douglas had been replaced by Stewart, while Butler had been replaced in the starring role by Paul Bettany. Stewart and Bettany had previously worked together in the Screen Gems film Legion.
With a budget of $60 million, filming began in August 2009 in Los Angeles, California, and it concluded in November 2009. The film was the most expensive production from Screen Gems, to that date, and as of 2018 is still tied for third-most expensive, behind only Underworld: Awakening and Resident Evil: Retribution.
Tokyopop flew Min-Woo Hyung to where production was taking place so the comics' creator could visit the art department and discuss the film with Stewart. The film diverges from the comics in following a different timeline of events and adding elements of the sci-fi western, cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic science-fiction genres. The director described Priest's vampires as not being human in origin, and humans bitten by vampires became familiars instead. There are different forms of vampires, such as hive drones, guardians, and a queen. Since the vampires were intended to move quickly, they were fully computer-generated for the film. While vampires are harmed by sunlight in most lore, the film's vampires are instead photosensitive, being albino cave-dwellers. Stewart said, "They are the enemy we don't really understand, but we fought them for centuries. They are mysterious and alien, with their own culture. You sense that they think and communicate, but you don't really understand what they are saying." The director also called Priest an homage to The Searchers with the title character being similar to John Wayne's character and the vampires being similar to the Comanche. The animated prologue for the film was created by American animator and director Genndy Tartakovsky. The production team includes:
- Michael De Luca
- Josh Bratman
- Shareena Carlson
- Joshua Donen
- Glenn S. Gainor
- Steve Galloway
- Stuart J. Levy
- Mitchell Peck
- Nicola Stern
Priest was released in the United States and Canada on May 13, 2011. The film's release date changed numerous times in 2010 and 2011. It was originally scheduled for October 1, 2010, but it moved earlier to August 27, 2010, to fill a weekend slot when another Screen Gems film, Resident Evil: Afterlife, was postponed. When the filmmakers wanted to convert Priest from 2D to 3D, the film was newly scheduled for release on January 14, 2011. It was delayed again to May 13, 2011, so the film could attract summertime audiences.
Priest was released outside the United States and Canada on May 6, 2011, in four markets. It grossed an estimated $5.6 million over the weekend, with "decent debuts" of $2.9 million in Russia and $1.8 million in Spain. It performed poorly in the United Kingdom with under $700,000.
The film was released in the United States and Canada on May 13, 2011, in 2,864 theaters with 2,006 having 3D screenings. It grossed an estimated $14.5 million over the weekend, ranking fourth at the box office. Its performance was considered subpar compared to similar films in the Underworld series and Resident Evil series. To date, Priest has grossed an estimated $76.5 million, of which $29.1 million was from North America.
Priest was largely panned by critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 15% based on reviews from 101 critics and reports a rating average of 4.00 out of 10 with a consensus that "Priest is admittedly sleek and stylish, but those qualities are wasted on a dull, derivative blend of sci-fi, action, and horror clichés". At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 41 based on 13 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade audiences gave the film was a "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
- Legion, a film also directed by Scott Stewart and starring Paul Bettany.
- Vampire films, about vampires in cinema and other films featuring vampires.
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