I have always – always – been a fan of things supernatural. Even when I was a kid, I can remember probably flipping around the channel changer for anything dealing with ghosts, demons, monsters, or general theatrical wickedness. I’m not so sure that I necessarily believes in such things; I guess it just interests me on a storytelling level perhaps because it lends itself to so, so many different avenues. One of the perspectives that often gets explored is pairing adolescence with a child’s developing psychic gifts. While some might consider it a bit clichéd, I’ll just chalk that up to their snobbery at the subject matter. Like I said, I don’t mind the stuff so much, and that’s why a small flick like WAY OF THE WICKED might get a bit more praise from me than it would with others. Not much more praise, mind you. Just a wee bit …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “After a series of inexplicable murders sweeps a small, isolated community, Father Henry (played by Christian Slater) goes to a local police detective (Vinnie Jones) with a theory on why the murders are occurring. The two learn that a troubled teen with a dark past has recently moved to town and has set his sights on the cop’s beautiful young daughter (Emily Tennant). Father Henry, who turns out to have secrets of his own, finds himself pitted against a demonic force more diabolically evil and twisted than any of them could have imagined.”
As often transpires with these small releases, neither the box art nor the film’s advertising really bares more than a passing resemblance to the plot. For example, one could conclude after reading the above that this is a Christian Slater/Vinnie Jones buddy film – which, incidentally, doesn’t that sound like an interesting pairing? Anyway, that’s pretty far from the case as the young, fresh-faced Emily Tennant really carries the weight of the story here. For what it’s worth, she does an admirable job here – it may not open any career doors for her, and she’s certainly convincing as the small town high school hottie, that’s for sure. (All kidding aside, she really is lovely, and methinks she’s destined for more work.)
Still, what’s missing from the above is any protracted discussion of that “troubled small town teen,” Robbie (Jake Croker). To his credit, Croker pulls off ‘brooding menace’ with possibly a bit too much glee here. He’s definitely got the look, and hopefully he won’t see his career pigeonholed in such a way as he doesn’t get to explore something different. He pairs up against Tennant – along with a handful of other less interesting more predictable youngsters – and, while they don’t exactly spark of chemistry, they play well enough off one another that it isn’t hard to see the two of them have some skills.
Sadly, Slater continues yet one more in a series of dead-eyed, unchallenging cameos (he’s really a side character throughout WICKED though the box art implies he’s the star). Despite a relatively by-the-numbers performance, he does show up a bit more involved whilst paired with Jones. By contrast, Jones never quite looks the part of the widowed police detective whose affection for his young daughter is all that really matters at this point in his life, but – like Slater – he puts his best feet forward in an admirable attempt. Who knows? Could there have been (under other circumstances) a franchise here where two small town professionals – the preacher and the detective – pair up to solve crimes all involving a flair for the supernatural? Well, it couldn’t happen in this motion picture universe (I won’t spoil their respective fates), but maybe if writer/producer Matt Kelly wants to try again?
He could a lot worse. Plus – by the looks of it – both Slater and Jones are available.
WAY OF THE WICKED (2014) is produced by Matt Kelly Films and Odyssey Media. DVD distribution is being handled by RLJ Entertainment and Image Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, this is one smartly produced small thriller; while there’s some high quality sights and sounds, there’s a surprising lack of interesting cinematography that may’ve been the fault of an uninspired director. Lastly – as is too often the case with these quieter releases find their way into the home entertainment market – there are no special features to speak of; anything would’ve been appreciated. Really.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. WAY OF THE WICKED isn’t perfect – it has more than its fair share of silly moments that kinda/sorta defy conventional logic and/or smack of the usual ‘TV movie of the week’ sensibilities so common to direct-to-DVD fare. Still, it had a nice twist (which I started to suspect in the final third anyway). Sure, Vinnie Jones was probably horribly miscast as the small town sensitive father type who just happens to be a police detective, but he gave it an admirable shot. So sue me if I like creepy supernatural thrillers.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment and Image Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of WAY OF THE WICKED (2014) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape or form influenced my opinion of it.