Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Kevin Carraway
Writer: Matt Kelly
Producer: Kirk Shaw, Matt Kelly
Stars: Christian Slater, Vinnie Jones, Emily Tennant, Jake Croker, Aren Buchholz, Brittney Wilson, Jedidiah Goodacre
A troubled priest pursues a mysterious young man that he suspects of committing murder through a supernatural ability.
Patrons of low-budget thrillers are used to top-billed name actors appearing in films for five minutes or less before quickly disappearing to cash their checks. Christian Slater predictably pulls that trick in “Way of the Wicked,” but the movie really pushes itself into Ed Wood territory when it uses a “Fake Shemp” to extend Slater’s screen time via an actor who looks nothing like him standing behind a tree branch. How can an audience not snicker while recalling Bela Lugosi’s chiropractor with a cape over his nose, laughably imitating the famous Dracula actor in “Plan 9 from Outer Space” despite bearing no resemblance to Lugosi whatsoever?
To be certain, comparing “Way of the Wicked” to what is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made gives the wrong impression, as “Way of the Wicked” genuinely has respectable production values and a professional look. However, it also has a script that is as dull as a plastic butter knife and acting that makes RoboCop sound like a master Shakespearian thespian.
Swap the menstruating girl with a teenage boy, remove all of the personality, and “Way of the Wicked” can be described as a male version of “Carrie” with a slight hint of “The Omen,” albeit far less interesting than either. Slater plays priest Father Henry, who investigates the prophecy of a powerful evil force and its connection to a boy named Robbie who he suspects of killing a bully without ever laying a finger on him.
Five years later, Henry has been defrocked by the church, although that doesn’t stop him from continuing to wear a cassock and collar as he stalks now 17-year-old Robbie from the bushes near the high school. Not like a former priest pretending to still be a priest while staring at a teenage boy from behind a tree is creepy or anything.
Robbie rekindles his childhood crush on Heather, the girl who was with him when the unfortunate bully was mysteriously force choked to death. After the prime rival for Heather’s affection ends up similarly afflicted in the present, and then mysteriously mangled by sentient farm equipment, the girl seems to believe the events are unrelated and enters into a relationship with Robbie anyway, much to the distress of her police detective father John. John thinks the boy is trouble. And Father Henry stokes that fire by teaming up with the detective to take Robbie out before his unholy ability can harm anyone else who gets in the way of romance.
If “Way of the Wicked” intends for any of these characters to be likable, sympathetic, or the least bit compelling, the script never lets the viewer in on the secret of who that is supposed to be. Robbie is a black hole of charisma who only smirks, sneers, or says something sarcastic in an expressionless monotone that grows more irritating every time he appears onscreen. His too cool for school belligerent punk attitude earns him the knuckle sandwiches he forcibly eats, as the bullies live out the viewer’s fantasy of punching his teeth in.
Greg, the other guy lusting after Heather, is a stereotypical leather-jacketed bad boy driving his convertible with one arm before replacing the steering wheel with a beer bottle in one hand and a joint in the other. No one can possibly be expected to care about this clown either, least of all Heather.
Notorious for his “hard man” reputation as a footballer before becoming a silver screen tough guy, Vinnie Jones plays so far against type that curious admiration for his taking a subdued role not built around teeth-gritting action wanes into boredom in short order. I’m all for actors avoiding typecasting, but who wants to see this many scenes of Jones decked out in reading glasses pouring through library books?
The closest the movie comes to depicting a somewhat tolerable person is Heather, except she has too much concrete between her ears to be anything more than a dullard. Robbie seemingly kills a boy in front of her eyes with supernatural powers at age 12, does it again at age 17, and continuously insults her father for trying to get to the bottom of the murders, yet somehow she still finds him attractive. Listening to her profess Robbie’s innocence to her father is like listening to a death row serial killer’s jailhouse spouse express the same misguided conviction.
“Carrie” had religious subtext and fully developed characters with conflicted motivations to make its drama engaging. “The Omen” had potentially history-altering consequences on the line regarding the fate of the troubled young antichrist at its story’s center. All “Way of the Wicked” has at stake is which of two underwhelming options Heather will choose as her homecoming date. This is a lot of conflict and killing over an average teenage girl, and those are stakes that are not terribly interesting to put at the heart of a supernatural thriller.
“Way of the Wicked” builds to an ending that might have been clever had it not been implausible given how the story was shaped up until that point. Visually and production design-wise, the movie presents itself well, even if the look is only in the same league as a made-for-cable movie of the week. And much like an overly melodramatic MOW whose main purpose is just to fill a 90-minute timeslot, “Way of the Wicked” plays like a weak teen romance with a weaker undercurrent of supernatural activity that is almost as flaccid as its underwhelming plotline.
Review Score: 40