Chemical Wedding is a hipper, newer, higher tech update of the old
Hammer horror films, which combined 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 an amalgam of science and
ritualistic mumbo-jumbo which essentially boils down to this: we can
transfer programs and information from computer to computer. 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 basic for the reincarnation of Alistair
Crowley at Cambridge by 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
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
Can't complain about the nudity level (not 100% sure of these ID's, but
I think they are right)
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
shows off some awesome breasts as the musician at a Bacchanalia.
(Other orgiasts can be seen in the clip 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.