Some movies require opening your mind a bit farther than you might be comfortable with. Sea of Dust requires forgetting you have a mind. Random crazy thing after random crazy thing slaps you upside the head. Only to be followed by something even crazier. The only thing you can count on is the absolute unpredictability of the film.
Prestor John (Tom Savini) is a mythical religious king who has decided he no longer wishes to remain a myth. It’s time to get real. He transforms by capturing souls and tormenting them into submission. Once in control of a soul, he is able to control the owner’s body, now literally a hollow shell, to attack the nonbelievers and spread his ideology. I know what you are thinking, and you are right. This is crazy.
Enter Stefan (Troy Holland), a medical student who is considerably tougher than he looks. Like when he suffers a 4-inch stab wound to his shoulder, then is dragged by a giant hook lodged into his neck. Neither injury elicits much more than a shrug and some mild annoyance.
Stefan is young and eager to help against the spreading plague caused by the mythical king. He finds himself fighting off the bad guys and quickly gets sucked into the other side of reality. This is where (if it wasn’t already) it gets a little wild.
The film takes a left turn toward Crazyville and doesn’t look back. Considerable amounts of time are spent on religious exposition, mostly in the form of monologue from Savini, who is rather hilarious. Savini is over the top in his role. He is half mythical king, half Dracula from a ‘60s Hammer film.
As the film progresses further into madness, things begin to happen that are Lynchian or Naked Lunch-esque. It’s like Lynch and Hammer Horror got together, did a bunch of ecstasy and read the Bible; Sea of Dust being the afterbirth. Heads explode, the evil twins from The Shining prance around and then perhaps the craziest thing of all.
Stefan triumphantly declares, “You know what we have to do.” Actually, Stefan, we don’t. Please tell us. Oh, you have to make a fist and push your way through a girl’s vagina in order to reach the “other reality,” where a harpy that is fond of peeing on people exists? Honestly, Stefan, we didn’t see that coming. What was left of my mind was officially blown.
The film’s best qualities are its looks and high levels of gore. Sea of Dust was shot in a manner that recaptures the vivid and dreamlike Hammer horror films of yesteryear. The film is a solid tribute to that era and even features the lovely Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula), who just so happened to star in a host Hammer films in her younger days.
The gore is well executed, gross, vile and in-your-face — just like it should be. Gore hounds will be pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of excess. Whether someone is taking a pitchfork to the face or an axe through the chest, the film remains bloody throughout.
Director Scott Bunt created a film that relies on ideas and mythology as much as blood and gore. And to his credit, the film is unique; nothing else in modern horror looks or feels like it. But therein lies the problem: With so much going on (most of it wordy religious talk), the film loses focus and ends up a bloody mess.
The good: Not many films have ever tried to do so much with so little.
The bad: Not many films have tried to do so much with so little.
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