Chemical Wedding


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Chemical Wedding is a hipper, newer, higher tech update of the old Hammer horror films, which used to combine interesting ideas about history and theology with traditional grade B genre entertainment, and almost always featured at least one villain who was larger than life. More often than not it was Christopher Lee at his resonant, pompous best.

In this case, the Christopher Lee role has gone to Simon Callow, who goes far over the top as the reincarnation of the notorious black magician Alistair Crowley. The ideas presented are a fanciful amalgam of science and ritualistic mumbo-jumbo, all of which essentially boils down to this: we can transfer programs and information from computer to computer; therefore, is it not theoretically possible that in the future we could transfer the essence of a man's brain to a computer, and from there to another man? That general premise, which seems plausible to me, at least for some time in the unspecified future, forms the basis for the reincarnation of Alistair Crowley through the actions of an unholy cabal of theologians, magicians, theoretical physicists and computer programmers who specialize in virtual reality.

Once ol' Ali is back in the saddle, he really rides roughshod on anyone unlucky or foolish enough to cross his path, with his victims ranging from gullible participants in his rituals, to the roommate of a woman he needs for a ritual, to the local homeless and hookers. He basically kills or has sex with everyone he sees, all while reciting Shakespeare and the bible, or just reciting transgressive thoughts in florid language and stentorious tones.

A real party guy!

This would be quite an excellent horror movie if it had not tried to cram too many ideas into its running time. It has the appropriately infernal musical score, some powerful atmosphere, lurid genre thrills, an ambitiously complicated plot, and an outlandishly hammy but amazingly effective performance from Callow in the lead. Those elements alone should have made it a classic modern horror film, ala Angel Heart, but it falls short of that level because it just gets too damned gimmicky in the final act by stirring in time travel, parallel universes, time/space warps, and mysterious coincidences meant to leave us wondering if we have drawn the right conclusions about the real nature of the threat and whether it has been contained. There are many elements which seem to make no sense as they happen. Some are later explained within reasonable limits of plausibility, but others are not explained at all. I found it even more confusing when I watched some scenes a second time, because I spotted other things which didn't seem to make sense, like characters being where they could not be. It is, of course, always possible to explain everything contradictory by the stopping and restarting of time, or the curvature of space, or parallel universes, or the assumption that black magic really works, but stirring those hypothetical elements into a script's mix should not constitute a license to depart completely from common sense.

I'll say this for the film: for all its failings, it stands head and shoulders above the modern horror films which involve city kids, tourists, or hitchhikers falling into the clutches of and being tortured by hillbillies, evil truckers, and amoral Eastern European entrepreneurs. This script was written by people who are genuinely interested in satanic worship, cutting edge scientific speculation, Shakespeare, history, and other arcane topics, and that alone makes it consistently fun to watch, and allows us to forgive it when the plot twists get too contrived and the scientific equipment starts to looks too much like the leftover sets from Lost in Space.

In fact, I'll be honest and say that I liked it on balance. I was a fan of the old Hammer films and this film recreates a lot of the same campy feel, but with a more modern zest. But I should have liked it far more. Its many strengths were dragged down by some sheer silliness and confusion. It's a fairly good film with a great one trapped inside, unable to emerge.


* Currently available only at amazon uk








1 The Guardian (of 5 stars)


5.8 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It had a minimal theatrical release (18 theaters, 7 days) in the UK, where it grossed $9,000.



Esme Bianco is totally naked in a crazy seduction scene that takes place when Crowley uses her to gain control over his version of "Igor"

Helen Millar gives it all up, front and rear, as the unlucky roommate of Crowley's intended victim.

Nicola Rockhill shows off some awesome breasts as the musician at a Bacchanalia. (Other naked orgiasts can be seen in the scene as well.)

Gemma Hiles shows very little, one breast, but does manage to get her pubes shaved on camera. (The shaving cream hides everything.)

Natasha Ford walks around the Satanic orgy ritual in a diaphanous gown which hides nothing.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A good genre film which should have been a great one.