Monday, January 7, 2013
Directed by Mychel Arsenault
Country of Origin: Canada (Quebec)
Run time: 92 Minutes (approx.)
Viewed on: Memorex DVD+R sourced from the Belgian VHS released by Excalibur in 1990
Format: Full Screen (1.33:1) with hard-coded Belgian subtitles
The movie begins with what looks like a flashback to the Middle Ages. We see shots of snowy areas and eventually see a faceless man who looks to be writing a book on alchemy and gargoyles. We continue to see some of this throughout various parts of the film.
Cut to modern times. We now see an apartment in Montreal where botanist Vlad (Ron Lea - Criminal Law, TV's Doc) and his girlfriend, artist Flora (The late Catherine Colvey - Obsessed (1988), I'm Not There.) are lounging in their bedroom. It is a stormy night. Vlad notices the storm getting more violent. Vlad tells Flora that when lightning strikes above the cathedral across the street, it's amazing. We then see shots of lightning and the windy streets of Montreal, outside the cathedral. A priest is leaving for home when the storm causes a gargoyle to fall upon the priest, killing him. The next morning, Vlad is on his way to work at his lab when he picks up a piece of the gargoyle, which bears a strange symbol. Meanwhile at a mueseum, Flora is restoring a painting when the church's Sexton (Tom Rack - Mindfield, If Looks Could Kill) brings pieces of the gargoyle to be restored. Flora is reluctant to restore it, as she has never had to restore such an artifact, but agrees to it anyway. Once the gargoyle is restored, it begins to interfere with Vlad's experiments on plant life and also begins to kill those who come near it, completely dissolving every bone in the victims' bodies and replacing their blood with a green substance ala Troll 2.
In spite of some minor flaws, along with a confusing ending and a low budget that is not afraid to show itself throughout the film, more or less, I actually really enjoyed it. Until the confusing ending, it kept my interest for the most part. Some of the acting isn't exactly Oscar material, but most of the cast do pull off good performances throughout the film, especially Canadian character actor Tom Rack, who plays the mysterious church Sexton. The role is achieved with his magnificent voice and well-spoken dialogue. In my personal opinion, Mr. Rack comes off as probably the best actor in the film. Writing and plot aren't exactly top notch either, but are acceptable. The plot actually seems to come off as a cross between The Omen (1976), The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Prince of Darkness (1987). When I first read the film's plot summary, it also reminded me of the Lover's Vow story in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, but it did not sound as impressive as that was. It is never made clear if the cathedral in the film was actually some kind of front for a Catholic-based cult or was merely a crumbling fort that failed to keep the evil force of the gargoyle from spreading. One unintentionally humorous thing about the film was how the gargoyle's force had killed 12 people, yet only 3 of the victims were shown. That alone is also another example of the low budget showing throughout the film. The score, composed by Donald L'Ecuyer, is also quite haunting for a low budget movie score as well.
I first discovered this film, through a random IMDb search back in 2010 and did not actually stumble across a copy of the film's Belgian VHS (Released as The Ungodly Power) until last year on eBay. I did not watch it until earlier this month. Sounds complicated, I know, but I have my reasons. While I do not own a VCR that can play PAL tapes, the seller was nice enough to make me a DVD+R copy of the film.
The film, while it made a quiet premiere at the 1990 Montreal World Film Festival and another quiet release at Portugal's Fantasporto Festival, seems to have never been released on video anywhere in North America, as it seems to have been lost in distribution. Rather odd too as it was made at a time when any B-movie could get some sort of release anywhere. It's only other video releases anywhere aside from Belgium seem to be Italy, Brazil, and quite possibly Japan. Although I have seen implications that it has at least once aired on Canadian television.
Regardless of the flaws mentioned, or maybe because of them to some extent, I do recommend seeking this film out. If you ever do stumble upon it, just set your brain slightly off, sit back, relax, and enjoy. It probably goes up with the likes of Freakshow (1989), Midnight Matinee (1989) and Outcast (1990) as one of the more harder to find Canadian horror films.
The DVD+R of the film that came with the tape is presented with surprisingly good picture quality for a VHS rip. It almost was regular DVD-style full screen quality even. Audio is in English but Dutch subtitles are hardcoded. Keep in mind that this was sourced from a VHS tape. As for the quality of the audio, there are a few dropouts that pop up within the film here and there, but this is acceptable, considering the rarity of this film. The DVD+R itself, despite being made on a European PAL VHS-to-DVD machine, surprisingly works on American DVD players, as not too long after watching the film on my computer, it also worked fine on my Magnavox VHS-to-DVD recorder as well.
Now if only I could find the same director's other film, Power Games (1989)...
DVD+R Picture: A
DVD+R Sound: C
DVD+R Extras: Trailers for Race for Glory (1989), Angel Town (1990), and No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder (1987) advertised as simply Raging Thunder, appear before the film. After the film, trailers for Slow Burn (1989) and the Witchboard (1986) spin-off, Witchtrap (1989) appear.