Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness (2004)

Starring Michael Pare, Sandra Hess, Tim Abell, and a computer generated gargoyle

Directed by Jay “You’re not fooling anyone Jim Wynorski” Andrews

Let’s begin with some movie math, shall we?

Directed by Jim Wynorski + Starring Michael Pare + Co-starring the chick that played Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation + unconvincing CGI effects + Sci-Fi Channel premiere = THIS IS GONNA SUCK!

The sad thing is that this equation is a remedial movie math problem.

Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness…Ugh, that title sounds like it should be the name of a supplement for the Vampire: The Masquerade role-playing game.

Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness is the latest cinematic offering from the incomparable Jim Wynorski. Many of you may fondly remember Jim Wynorski as the director of the killer robots killing teenagers in a shopping mall cult classic Chopping Mall. Unfortunately, it’s kind of been all downhill since. With other films like The Return of Swamp Thing, Ghoulies IV, Vampirella, Cheerleader Massacre, Raptor, Busty Cops, Curse of the Komodo, and the Bare Wench Project trilogy under his belt is it any wonder that the guy started making movies under the alias of Jay Andrews? Of course, it does make one wonder what exactly is the point of using an alias if your true identity is pretty much common knowledge? The average movie watcher has no idea how bad many of his prior movies are because the truth is that Jim Wynorski is really a minor blip on the cinematic spectrum, so what does it really matter if he hides his true identity? And the people that do know who he is and how bad many of his prior movies are know full well that Jay Andrews is his personal Alan Smithee. So again, why bother with a fake name when the only people that are going to care are the people that already know ahead of time to avoid the movie? Part of me wonders if it is really a scheme to try and fool the investors. Hey, he may mostly make bad movies – many intentionally so – but he keeps getting funding to make them and that is more than a lot of directors in the business can say.

Which brings us back to Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness. I caught it a few months back when it debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel but never got around to finishing my review for a variety of reasons. On the positive side, Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness wasn’t total crap like, say, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys. It’s just plain crap. The film constantly teeters back and forth between dullness and silliness, meaning it does deliver a few entertaining scenes, mostly for the sheer cheesiness of the moment, but not very many and certainly not enough to suggest anyone need bother to go out of their way to see it.

Thousands of years ago, computer generated gargoyles that look as if they are made out of the same sort of rubber as the old Manglors action figures ran rampant. Then Jesus died for our sins and suddenly the computer generated gargoyles weren’t so rampant. The last computer generated gargoyle was killed off several hundred years ago in Transylvania. The movie opens with that very scene and if you ever wanted to see what Van Helsing would have looked like if it had been made on a Sci-Fi Channel budget then check out the first five minutes of this movie.

We are told the only thing that can kill a gargoyle is a weapon consecrated with the blood of Christ. Unfortunately, Christ took his blood along with him when he resurrected, but fortunately, we have Catholic priests who are Jesus’ chosen ones on earth and as long as the priest is pure at heart then he can use his blood to anoint a weapon that can be used to kill a computer generated gargoyle.

A computer generated gargoyle shows up and attacks some villagers and a priest comes running out of his church, slashes his hand, wipes his blood on some crossbow arrows, tosses the crossbow and the anointed quills to a peasant, who proceeds to rather easily kill the computer generated gargoyle with a single shot. It falls into a deep hole, a big rock rolls into the hole covering it, and then the peasants all celebrate like Red Sox fans.

Fast forward to modern times where Michael Pare…

Ugh, Michael Pare. Not Michael Pare. For the love of God, not Michael Pare!

Outside of Eddie & The Cruisers has Michael Pare ever starred in a movie that was even remotely entertaining? Simply put, when Michael Pare appears in a movie there is suddenly this six-foot walking void of nothingness taking up space. In that regard, he is just like Freddie Prinze Jr., only Michael exudes stoic boredom whereas Freddie exudes complete dorkdom. Come to think of it, Freddie Prinze Jr. actually resembles Michael Pare more than he does his actual father. I’m thinking maybe there needs to be a paternity test just to make sure.

Look, I just cannot stand this guy. Michael Pare, I mean, not Freddie Prinze Jr., although I’m not too fond of him either. Pare is a lazy actor with absolutely no screen presence whatsoever. He’s just there. He’s a talking mannequin that shows no signs of life other than his ability to speak and move. Granted the art of acting is comprised mostly of speaking and moving, but there still has to be something behind it besides basic motor functions. Pare speaks in one voice and his idea of range is how loud and forcefully he speaks. The guy either mumbles his lines or yells his lines. Mostly he just sounds like a very bored actor waiting for the paycheck to clear. As for facial expressions, he has three: casual, serious but casual, and excited but casual. The casual face will be used for about 95% of the movie regardless of the emotion of the scene. The serious but still casual expression will be used in those scenes where he is either being talked down to by an authority figure or confronted with a bad or unusual situation. The excited yet still overly casual about the situation expression only comes into play during an action scene at the moment either he is being attacked, attacks something himself, sees someone else being attacked, or just has to yell at someone during the heat of action. If a monster was attacking me I’m fairly certain I would be significantly freaked out. Michael Pare reacts to it as if it were just another street thug trying to mug him.

It really is amazing when you think about it. Man has found a way to teach monkeys sign language but nobody has been able to teach Michael Pare how to exude more charisma than Steven Seagal. It kind of boggles the mind. Truth be told, I suspect the guy just doesn’t really care anymore. He probably realized long ago what sort of fate his acting career has been resigned to and he knows Quentin Tarantino isn’t looking to give him a career comeback anytime soon so he just shows up and does what little he has to do to collect his paycheck.

What’s worse is that there is a scene where a young boy scared of heights and his drunken louse of a father (at least I think it was supposed to be his dad) ride the ferris wheel at a small town carnival that gets attacked by the computer generated gargoyle. This kid is only in the movie for maybe two minutes and yet the look of terror on his face that intensifies once the gargoyle shows up manages to single handedly out act every other actor in the movie, especially Mr. Negative Charisma Michael Pare. For shame.

So Michael Pare and the blonde chick that appeared in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and the James Brolin TV series “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” are American federal agents in modern day Transylvania dealing with the kidnapping and ransom of a diplomat’s son, which ends in a most peculiar manner when something swoops out of the sky and makes off with the main kidnapper, whose corpse turns up later impaled high up on the steeple of a local cathedral. Or what it the steeple to Castle Orlock? Or was Castle Orlock the cathedral? It has been awhile and it really doesn’t matter much anyway. Suffice it to say they decide to investigate further.

At the same time, you got a subplot at the cathedral – or was it Castle Orlock? – involving dueling Catholic priests, one that knows the truth about the computer generated gargoyle resurrecting and the other that doesn’t believe in such superstitious nonsense. There is also a pair of art historians looking to renovate the place to its original glory that keep stumbling upon strange artwork depicting winged demon creatures.

Actually, most of the medieval artwork shown that is supposed to be visualizing the legacy of the computer generated gargoyles is actually old drawings of medieval dragons. How one can keep showing people a picture of what is obviously a dragon and call it a gargoyle is beyond me.

Pare and Hess spend a good portion of the movie investigating the possibility that the computer generated gargoyle murders are being committed by a local vampire cult led by a dude known as Lex The Slayer, who looks less like a gothic performance artist and more like a card-carrying member of the Jon Mikl Thor fan club. Lex The Slayer puts on this gothic stage show involving scantily clad women and a python that looks like something out a 1980’s heavy metal video Beavis and Butthead would have ridiculed. Oh, it also turns out Lex is the leader of a Transylvanian goth rock street gang that actually gets into a ridiculous rooftop rumble with another Transylvanian street gang just in time for the computer generated gargoyle to make one of its script required appearances.

Pare also strikes up a potential romance with the female art historian. I say potential because nothing ever comes of it other than a pointless date scene. The fact that he is wooing this lady begs the question as to what the point of the Sandra Hess character is. First of all, Hess is the more attractive of the two and secondly, she is playing his partner. I’ve seen enough movies to know the rules dictate that if the lead actor’s partner is an attractive, single female yet there are no signs of romance past, present, or future then one of two things must occur: she either turns out to be one of the bad guys (not applicable in this scenario) or she dies and the partner must avenge her death. Neither of which happens here. Sandra Hess gets second billing and is the second most recognizable actor in the film behind Pare yet she has a nothing part. Even the priests get more to do.

Speaking of the priests, one of them inexplicably, for no particular reason, from completely out of nowhere, turns evil; and we are talking hammy, overacting, illogical, batshit evil. But hey, at least we get a scene where one of the priests kills the other one, who despite being dead magically comes back to life at just the right moment to save others from the evil one. And what is it about evil priests in horror movies anyway that causes them to lose their faith and immediately pledge their allegiance to the forces of darkness? Talk about tired movie clichés.

It all comes down to the lackluster finale where Pare leads a commando squad into the computer generated gargoyle’s underground lair to destroy the it and the computer generated baby gargoyles that are moments away from hatching from cocoons that look almost exactly like the ones from Alien. They hatch and, well, I guess Wynorski must have left out the scene where a priest consecrated the machine gun ammo and plastic explosives with his blood because they manage to kill the little ones with decidedly non-holy weapons. Then the main computer generated gargoyle shows up just in time for Pare to break out the sacred crossbow with the +10 anointed arrows of righteousness for a showdown that lasts all of about 15 seconds.

Amazing. Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness manages to commit every sin a bad monster movie can make. The monster is a fake looking beast so limited by the CGI that it can barely interact at all with the live action, has no real personality of its own, does very little when it is does show up, and its appearances are so random that it becomes obvious it exists only as a plot device and not as an actual character. Worst of all, the gargoyle is shown to be a wimp we see easily done in twice in a matter of seconds at both the beginning and end of the movie. Given all the years Jim Wynorksi has been making movies he really should know better than this by now.

By the end of the movie it had dawned on me that they could just as easily have made the monster was used in such a generic manner that it could just as easily have been a really big killer myna bird instead of a gargoyle and it really wouldn’t have made much difference at all. Well, it might have made the movie more entertaining, but alas, this is Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness and not Myna Bird: Wings of Darkness and so there really is not much on display here worth looking at. Well, there is one thing.

Ladies and gentlemen… SATANIC ABBA!

1 ½ out of 5

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