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Passion of the Christ (2004)
Directed by Mel Gibson

Starring James Caviezel Monica Bellucci

I know people are very, very touchy about this movie, and the idea of a sleazy horror Web site like Esplatter reviewing it might upset some people. But what the hell... or heck. This is still a free country.

Not technically a horror film, "The Passion of the Christ" nonetheless contains so many fear film elements, that any fan of the "Omen" or "Prophecy" series simply has to see it as a "prequel" to those franchises. From Satan's eerie appearances to Judas' torment at the hand of a small army of demonic children, "The Passion of the Christ" offers up some of the most chilling moments seen in any movie in years. And the bloodiest. It's sort of Sam Peckinpah meets "Jesus of Nazareth." The first macho Jesus movie.

As any horror fan knows, the story of Jesus plays a huge role in the genre, from the use of crucifixes in vampire films to frequent references to God and Jesus in any movie involving the anti-Christ. Typically, Jesus films are watered down made-for-TV affairs, basically designed for after-Sunday-school education. Not so with "The Passion of the Christ." For any horror fan, it's impossible to watch this and not think of "The Exorcist" or "Rosemary's Baby."

You finally learned why that line, "The power of Christ compels you, the power of Christ compels you ," is so damn powerful against demons. Now I know why vampires shrivel up and die at the site of a cross. The significance of the "God Is Dead" cover that Rosemary spots in a waiting room in "Baby" is ... significant. As a horror fan, I was more than satisfied. This is not some kiddie Christ film. This is the real deal.

Is it anti-semitic? No. If this is then, so are many Hollywood movies, even horror movies. Does a Star of David ward of vampires? Did Max von Sydow chant, "The power of Abraham compels you! The power of Abraham compels you!" No! "Filmed entirely in Aramaic, it does feel more authentic than other Jesus films. Maybe that's why so many people are disturbed by it.

But for we horror fans, what makes it so much like a horror film is that it may be the first first truly Catholic Jesus film. Gibson is a Catholic, and Catholicism plays a big role in horror. "Passion" ultimately delivers a grueling portrait of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus, with spectacular special effects. Things get supernatural in the opening scene, when Jesus is tempted by an androgynous Satan to lose faith in His mission to die for all of mankind's sins. The story progresses along, beginning with Judas' betrayal, Jesus' capture, Judas' inevitable suicide and the torture, crucifixion and resurrection. There is a battle between the Devil and Jesus brewing from the opening moments, and it is clearly still on as we exit the film.

Of course, it gets carried on years later in "The Omen," "Exorcist," "Rosemary," etc.

What I'm trying to say here is, that if you're a horror fan (and you probably are, otherwise you wouldn't be visiting this site), absolutely positively go see "The Passion of the Christ." It is well worth the $9 ticket -- and it will make you appreciate the iconography in your favorite genre all the more.

-- Review by Lucius Gore

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