Sunday, 28 February 2016


Somewhere between the godless universe of Ken Russell’s Altered States (1980), and the cosmic insanity of Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond (1986), we find the absurdist madness of Julian Doyle’s Chemical Wedding, a shamelessly bizarre Cambridge university farce about the return of legendary occultist Aleister Crowley, co-written by Bruce Dickinson. Here, we have the collision of defensive Masonic lodge acolytes, and Californian investigative physics wizard, but neither of these overly–ambitious parties survives unscathed, as eccentric professor Haddo (Simon Callow) volunteers for quantum exploration, only to become possessed by the beast of Crowley. Pissing on students, wanking in church, Callow’s unapologetic reprobate plays a laughably obscene hi-jacking role in the blundering skiffy horrors where ‘virtual reality’ is synonymous with ‘astral plane’, and consciousness is swappable – like computer memory.

Extolling the virtues of “England’s greatest living poet” and embarking on a needle-sharing scarlet ritual that’s intended to generate a virgin birth, are not the limits of cultural transgression, moral outrage, and superstitious nonsense down in leafy suburbia or around hallowed halls of academe. There’s as much sleaze as sauce poured into this eyebrow-raising concoction but it’s really quite bonkers, and rather more liable to be judged as remarkably silly than it is likely to offend unwary viewers. Robert Pratten has tapped into similarly esoteric obsessions with chiller London Voodoo (2004), and this year’s MindFlesh, exploring dark moods, wicked humour, and seedy violence with an appreciably greater skill.

John Shrapnel essays a dying Crowley in the 194os’ Hastings prologue, with almost perfectly realised period detail. But, incongruously, many of the drama’s present day (circa 2000, with Bush versus Gore as headline news) sets look time-ported from post-war storage, the scientist’s Z93 technical gear is housed in a bemusingly retro basement, and students’ appropriately beige office hardware occupies shabbily furnished rooms of indeterminate age or location. In light of a multi-verse twist ending, the film’s ridiculous faults and overbearingly absolute–cobblers rationale are quite immaterial, anyhow.

This review is from BLACK STATIC #7 (October 2008).
In the same issue, I also reviewed: 

Who Saw Her Die?
The Wizard Of Gore
Lost Boys 2: The Tribe
Day Of The Dead (remake)
Dante 01
Dead Space: Downfall
The Happening
Tin Man
The Flock
The Vanguard
Eraserhead + short films 

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