Ken Russell's spirit returns to haunt a diabolical resurrection

PUBLISHED: 13:39 30 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:07 07 September 2010

Chemical Wedding (18) Director Julian Doyle Starring Simon Callow, Kal Weber, Lucy Cudden, Jud Charlton, John Shrapnel, Paul McDowell, 107 mins One star rating this is centred on a diabolical plot to resurrect The Beast Aleister Crowley in the year 200

Chemical Wedding (18) Director Julian Doyle Starring Simon Callow, Kal Weber, Lucy Cudden, Jud Charlton, John Shrapnel, Paul McDowell, 107 mins

One star rating

this is centred on a diabolical plot to resurrect "The Beast" Aleister Crowley in the year 2000. But at times during this hokey piece of British horror cinema, I thought they'd stumbled on some really dark alchemy and brought Ken Russell's film-making career back to life.

If you're familiar with the Russell oeuvre, imagine Altered States remade in the style of the really desperate later films, Lair Of The White Worn and the like. Here, however, there's an extra load of old cobblers thrown in for good measure.

The movie has that jolly, mates together having a bit of a laugh air to it. Straight from Hell? More like straight from YouTube.

Certainly some of the acting, editing and film-making is of the You'll-Only-Learn-By-Doing-It school.

The lighting in some of the location shots is so bad that they are like holiday snaps where a cloud passed across the sun just as they were taken.

It's silly - the work of people who read one too many Dennis Wheatley books at an impressionable age. But it's a nasty little film as well, throwing in a couple of opportunities for women to be sexually humiliated for no reason other than to fill up a few minutes of screen time.

In the middle of it is Simon Callow, doing double duties as stuttering Cambridge professor/ dark arts dabbler Haddo and Crowley himself.

Well, they can't all be Ian McKellen but surely a titled theatrical actor ought to be getting offered more dignified things to do. He must have called the Scottish Play by its real name.

The story is the work of Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson - the final script was written with director Doyle.

It does have some potentially interesting ideas about the links between spirituality and science but none as to characterisation, credible dialogue or storytelling.

Everything is so inept that, when a character mentions he feels like Schrodinger's cat, even though he's a Cambridge academic it's as preposterous as a post-match interview in which John Terry postulates on the existence of numerous parallel universes where he didn't miss that penalty.


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