Lionsgate // 2004 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 4th, 2005
Evil has wings.
Okay, here's my question. How come people who vanquish evil hundreds of years ago never finish the job the first time and end up leaving hapless folks in the 21st century to clean up their mess? Seriously, take care of business the first time, and we won't have to sit through filth like this.
Gargoyles used to terrorize Eastern Europe way back when -- that is until some priests shot arrows at them from a blessed crossbow. One such gargoyle got his at a place called Castle Orlock a few centuries ago, and was bottled up in a cavern.
Fast forward to the present day. It appears that the beast has escaped, and is again wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting residents of Bucharest. Fortunately for the human race, two crack CIA agents -- Ty Griffin (Michael Pare) and Jennifer Wells (Sandra Hess, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) -- happen to be in town on a kidnapping investigation.
Following a superfluous car chase scene that desperately wants to be from The Bourne Identity, Griffin corrals the head kidnapper. But a shriek and blood stain later, his quarry has disappeared, only to turn up impaled on a Castle Orlock spire. Well...this is odd.
Ever the skeptics, Wells and Griffin are inexorably drawn closer to the truth: a mean bastard of a gargoyle does exist, and he has plans to mount an attack on humanity using his horde of gargoyle offspring (despite the conspicuous lack of a Mrs. Gargoyle).
Let us cut through the baloney, shall we? This is obviously a creature movie, so let's answer the question on everyone's minds: how does the creature look?
Did I mention awful, ridiculous, cheap, and unconvincing?
This is the main problem I have with these low-budget creature features. Be it a flick about a killer Python, or Boa, or a Boa vs. Python, or a Frankenfish, or giant komodo dragons, sharks, and dinosaurs, the resulting creature is always a joke.
The gargoyle in this film is about as believable as a sock puppet. The creature is entirely computer generated, and moves in this poorly animated, herky-jerky, give-me-some-gargoyle-Ritalin fashion; I've seen more realistic CGI characters in the cutscenes of a Legend of Zelda game.
I suppose costuming is far pricier than banging out a villain on your Mac, but the fruit that is reaped from this fiscal conservatism is bitter. This monster is completely distracting. I found myself more amused by the animation and concentrating on the inanity of the gargoyle before me instead of paying any meaningful attention to the plot details. Oh, the gargoyle is chasing those people in the car...man does that look fake!
It's enough of a challenge for filmmakers with stratospheric budgets to craft convincing CGI beasties, never mind the low-budget folks. When you have a scene with Agent Griffin opening fire on a gargoyle that can't possibly be real (firing about a 1700 times mind you), that is not dramatic; that is pathetic.
So the gargoyle sucks, but what about the rest of the flick? Since this is a monster movie, I submit that a considerable portion of the success we can attribute to its execution begins and ends with the quality of the monster. Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness flunks there.
However, I will grant the film these kudos: it's not overlong, clocking in at a shade north of ninety minutes, the pacing is quick enough, and director Jay Andrews wisely injects enough action sequences to break up the monotony of Michael Pare. And the ending, a blatant rip-off of Aliens, wins a few points simply because our heroes decide to bring a brigade of heavily-armed soldiers into the gargoyle's nest instead of stupidly barging in themselves.
That's it for the scraps. The bulk of this movie is a pile of gargoyle guano.
Lions Gate surprised me with a 1.85:1 matted widescreen presentation, which flies in the face of its apparent "full frame only for crap movies" policy. The transfer looks pretty good, but that is to its detriment; it exposes the flaws of the special effects even more. A 5.1 Dolby Digital mix accompanies, but is pretty passive. Apart from some sporadic use of the surround -- particularly when the gargoyle flies around a bit -- much of the action is front-loaded. Just trailers for special features.
Yes this movie blows, but not so much that you want to throw yourself off the nearest overpass. The creature effects are ridiculous and the story is derivative, but this isn't nearly the exercise in self-immolation it could have been.
Guilty. Go sit on a cathedral ledge and think about what you've done.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R