If you have just a slight horror-fan in you, you will most likely have heard the name Aleister Crowley. A mystic, almost mythological person nowadays, Crowley is basically the father of modern occultism, satanism, Scientology and so on. Now I’m not one who has read his books, studied his person or engaged in his magic rituals, but hey, like everyone I’m intrigued by this guy. So without knowing to much about the actual person Crowley I sat through Julian Doyle and Bruce Dickinson’s “Chemical Wedding”. I figured a movie directed by Terry Gilliam’s editor and written by the lead singer of Iron Maiden had to at least be interesting.
Phooey, was I wrong! Absolutely nothing is done right here. Literally everything, from acting and direction through script, tempo, music, locations and casting is just basically wrong. The premise is fun, Dickinson’s script taking offset in the idea of Crowley’s spirit inhabiting a boring Cambridge University professor, but the execution is a complete misfire. I mean, I really want to say something positive here. I’m totally in love with the idea, I know there’s a lot of metaphysical reference going on in the script and there are loads of insider Crowley-nods to the annointed, but as an outsider this was just boring cliche to me. After watching I have no idea how ironic the filmmakers intended to be, because this feels like a classic b-movie, but has way to much high-brow dialogue and to little gore to be one. Consequentially it has way to many poor acting performances and stupid Dickinson-music to be taken seriously (the music is mixed at a volume that almost makes dialogue inaudible). So I’m at a loss. I have no idea what the intention of this film has been. I was baffled watching it and my brains reaction was boredom. I couldn’t laugh even though I wanted to. I couldn’t follow the completely lame plot and I didn’t care for the characters – I wasn’t even sure who the protagonist was supposed to be.
There is a little fun to be had in the company of brit character-actor Simon Callow, who plays the fuzzy Professor Haddo who’s mind is chemically married to Aleister Crowley, but the dying torch of his performance is the only light in the darkness Doyle clumsilly tries to guide us through. Every other actor seems to be fumbling with a script that nobody really understood. The fact that no single character seems to be our main protagonist further undermines any chance of this becoming an engaging story. The second half of the film is basically the Haddo-Crowley guy and his scarred familiar trying to bag this redhead reporter for some ritual, but watching it I wasn’t sure which side I was routing on. That basically goes for the entire film. Two many balls are in play, making it impossible to find a dramatic foothold and engage in the film. As audience we’re left with little more than a script that’s obviously made out of love or fascination for Crowley’s writings, but that the uninitiated will have no chance of finding their feet in.