Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Eric Balfour, Nick Mancuso, Tanya Clarke, Caroline Neron, Justin Salinger, Ifan Huw Dafydd
Directed by Bill Corcoran
Distributed by Genius Products
Gargoyles hate having their picture taken. I don’t know if this is due to their archaic religious beliefs about photography stealing one’s soul, assuming gargoyles ever have souls, or if they’re just jerks when it comes to the paparazzi like Sean Penn. There’s just so much about gargoyledom we don’t understand. Whatever the reason is, you’re wise to heed this warning unless you want a gargoyle to come after you. Guy films a gargoyle and in a matter of hours his car gets trashed, dead bodies start dropping from the sky around him, and the woman whose camera he had borrowed and gave it back to have the film analyzed falls victim to a fly-by beheading. Even Alec Baldwin on his worst day never decapitated anyone.
While you’re at it, don’t swipe a gargoyle’s glowing eggs either. That safety tip really should go without question.
Rise of the Gargoyles is standard Sci-Fi Channel filmmaking: strictly by-the-numbers storytelling, competent yet lazy direction, uninspired acting, and a static amount of inaction. The best to be said is that the film is neither a chore to sit through nor irritatingly bad.
A real live gargoyle long locked away in the confines of an old Parisian church is unleashed as the church is readied for demolition. A professor who specializes in Pagan architecture is the first to see the beast and live. A friend isn’t nearly as lucky, and the police think he’s the prime suspect. He’s assisted by a local reporter and her cameraman, as well as the crazy old priest who used to lord over the old church and has been trying to warn anyone who’ll listen that tearing the place down is a bad idea.
The gargoyle is given little screen time, and it isn’t even a case of holding off letting us have a look at it until the third act. The monster appears fairly early on and then keeps vanishing for large chunks of the film while considerable time is spent watching the actors investigate or discuss aspects of the plot the home audience is already acutely aware of.
The most creative element to this one is the explanation that the gargoyle can disguise itself in daylight by turning to stone and blending in as any of the countless stone gargoyles found on the local architecture. A neat idea; except the script doesn’t mention any of this until the third act just in time to conveniently introduce a UV light weapon that can be used against it. And then they proceed to kill the gargoyle in a manner that does not involve that weapon.
There really isn’t a whole lot to be said about a movie like this. It’s more or less the same movie as Jim Wynorski’s Sci-Fi Channel gargoyle flick Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness (review): Good guys have to stop a murderous gargoyle before its eggs hatch and unleash a horde of gargoyles that will destroy the world. That film was set in Romania. This film is set in Paris. Neither film was scary. Both had boring leading men. Both suffered from stock characters in stock situations. Wynorski’s film at least had some moments of camp value. Rise is technically a better made film, but humorless and with surprisingly little action unless you consider characters looking over their shoulders as they walk about darkened corridors or stroll down empty city streets as action, in which case the movie can be considered action-packed.
Only the dependable character actor Nick Mancuso peaked my interest with his insane ramblings as the crazed priest. His big speech where he explains to the others how this gargoyle came to be and why he has been the one saddled with the duty of keeping a vigilant watch out for the rise of this hellbeast is quite the scene.
That speech also sets the stage for the one moment that perfectly encapsulates what a dud Rise of the Gargoyles is. This unhinged soliloquy from a desperate man rapidly approaching his breaking point about the burden he never wanted to stop a monster from the depths of hell that has risen to bring about the end of the world and he’s unsure if anything can prevent it from happening, even falling to his knees on the verge of nervous breakdown as he finishes, is followed by an inane line of dialogue star Eric Balfour reacts with, which he does so calmly with no emotion on his face or in his voice as he delivers it:
“Whatever this beast is … It has to be stopped.”
2 out of 5
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