Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Chemical Wedding

directed by Julian Doyle

Chemical Wedding poster  
The demonologist Aleister Crowley scandalised British society in the early 20th century with his antics. Chemical Wedding seeks to embellish his bad reputation with a story that brings him back to life in the present day.

In 1947 Crowley (John Shrapnel) is old, ill, and incorrigibly odd, wittering about sex magic, Egyptian gods and regeneration to a couple of young students. One of them thinks he's a perverted nut, whilst the other is more open-minded.

In the present academics are busy meddling in matters they don't understand. Dr Mathers (Kal Weber) is a quantum physicist, conducting the types of experiments that involve putting some poor sap in a virtual reality spacesuit and observing what happens when they feed certain programmes in. Mathers and his colleague do this from a safe distance, behind a bank of computers.

Professor Haddo (Simon Callow) is a mild-mannered English lecturer with a bad stutter. He's entirely harmless until he agrees to take part in an experiment which is somehow affected by the spirit of Crowley. He emerges transformed, shaving his head and freaking out his students and the university staff with his erratic and taboo behaviour. He claims to be the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley. But is he merely a delusional guy having a mental breakdown?

Lia Robinson (Lucy Cudden) is a student who wants to interview Mathers for Varsity. She notices Haddo's changed personality, and studies the works of Crowley in her spare time. Haddo moves on from shocking behaviour, candles and pentagrams to more serious crimes, and he begins to search for a red-headed woman like Lia. He believes redheads have special occult powers, and he needs one to complete a ritual that will see him fully resurrected and unstoppable.

Chemical Wedding is the naffest type of low-budget movie. The effects are cheap and unconvincing, consisting of a computer room that looks like it was obsolete in the 1970s, a bulky suit, and not much else. This isn't the kind of film that relies on its effects, and it would be easier to overlook them if everything else were in place. But it isn't. The student actors aren't very good. As Crowley/Haddo Simon Callow is absurdly over-theatrical, spouting lots of bad poetry and dark mutterings about "The Beast". The overall effect is one of embarrassment, which turns to boredom when he goes on and on in the same manner. Crowley was supposed to be a bit of a showman, but he comes across as vain and somewhat disgusting rather than the scary harbinger of the apocalypse that the story seems to demand. I don't think this is down to Callow's poor acting, more that a mixture of bad direction and awful lines has turned his role into a joke.

The story doesn't go with much of a bang in the first place. For some reason the scriptwriters chose to slow it down even further by using characters who are hard to understand, like the stuttering Haddo and an old man who talks with a voice synthesizer. Then they top it off by having Haddo repeat "Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law" until we're sick of hearing it.

The best parts of this movie are the Iron Maiden songs at the opening and closing credits. Bruce Dickinson, who shares the scriptwriting credits with Julian Doyle, should stick to his strengths and not write scripts because this film is a disaster. With tedious characters, lame jokes, an unconvincing plot and a cringeworthy villain it's laughably bad.

14th July 2010

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films


Classification: 18

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson