Admittedly, I had wary mixed emotions as I approached viewing Julian Doyle and Bruce Dickinson's feature 'Chemical Wedding', well in the multiplex manic world of high gloss horror and lackluster genre remakes would there be room for a what looked to be an old school British genre movie; more so one created by background Monty Python crewman Julian Doyle and seminal Brit Heavy Metal icon (and erstwhile fencing pilot) Bruce Dickinson?
'Chemical Wedding' tells the story of stuttering congenial university lecturer Dr Oliver Haddo (played to perfection in show stealing style by Simon Callow) who after being coerced by scientist counterpart Victor Neuman (played by chilling Tim Westwood lookalike Jud Charlton) into acting as guinea pig for his mind experiments (by way of a virtual reality suit hooked up to a super computer) believes he's in fact the reincarnated soul of the depraved occult legend that is Aleister Crowley!
Cue much tasteless hilarity as the newly reinvigorated Crowley embraces the 21st century with much aplomb as he brazenly exposes (quite literally too) his ways onto an unsuspecting public! Swiftly suspended from his lecturing post (thanks to a sublime moment of urinatory frenzy during a poetically expletive riddled Shakespearian lecture) Crowley/Haddo decides to concentrate on cementing his re-entry into modern society by performing the occult ceremony the chemical wedding (of the title, natch) which doesn't bode well for any ginger haired woman in the vicinity (due to the ceremony's requirement for a 'scarlet woman'); which in turn means not much luck for amateur student reporter (and erstwhile hot red head) Lia (Lucy Cudden) whom quickly comes under Crowley's radar. Thankfully though poor Lia has the smitten attentions of the virtual suits American designer Dr Mathers (Kal Weber) who in true old school mystery investigator style aims to thwart Crowley's plans (though not before reams of deviant hilarity unfolds for our warped entertainment!)
For the initial opening twenty minutes or so of 'Chemical Wedding' my fears of old school Brit horror nuances (nee failings) looked very much a possibility but once the core plot set piece settled into its flow I was very much enthused to submerge myself into what is perhaps one of the most entertaining British genre movies in the past 20 years or so! I state so as 'Chemical Wedding' is indeed very reminiscent in feel to some of the finer (and occasionally underrated) British genre films of the 1980's (Dream Demon, Hellraiser); at times it does admittedly feel quite dated and has all the hallmarks of a vintage British production (middling but spirited effects sequences and debatable acting talents) but the questionable aspects are far outweighed by the positives.
The script by Dickinson and Doyle is an absolute joy, the plot is refreshingly ambitious (if though slightly reminiscent of Stuart Gordon's From Beyond to a point, though replacing the gore with tastelessly witty repose) but best of all is lead Simon Callow's dual role performance of Dr Haddo and warped legend Crowley (bringing the characterisation of the classic Jekyll and Hyde into the 21st century in respectable style). In opening sequences there is some slight unease at his overly theatrical portrayal of the stuttering Dr Haddo but this sits fine with the outlandishly confident role of Crowley when he gets the opportunity to let rip with some of the most downright hilariously sick monologues seen on the screen in quite some time (made more outrageous by the outlandish physical embellishments made by his character throughout, seriously they have to be seen to be believed!)
Who would have known that in a time where the genre is being battered by soulless genre multiplex fodder that it would take some old school British sensibilities to remind us how it should be done. Mixing witty intelligent dialogue with some of the most filthy and depraved imagery to hit the screen in quite some time 'Chemical Wedding' is a gem that's well worth your attention - I'd expect Mary Whitehouse and James Ferman are both spinning in their graves! Congratulations to Dickinson, Doyle and Callow - job done!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Warner Music Entertainment|