Solomon Kane (2009)
I had the pleasure of seeing Solomon Kane at the Empire Leicester Square upon its initial release. I remember at the time how I found it very refreshing to see an independent horror film that treated its underlying material with the respect it deserved. The genre was somewhat in the doldrums at the time, awash with soulless remakes and endless franchise sequels, produced by cynical studios that were ultimately contemptuous of the material and the fans. Although not a literal adaptation of the series of short stories by Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane successfully captured their spirit and broadened their scope to accommodate both the horror and fantasy genres.
I have seen the film several times since then and my enjoyment for it has not abated. It still strongly reminds me of the heyday of the Hammer studios in the way that the production looks more expensive and sumptuous than it actually cost. Solomon Kane had a modest $40 million budget but at first glance you would not tell, with its striking gothic production design, beautiful locations and cinematography by Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak, Brotherhood of the Wolf). The film has a very distinctive European look and feel. It also sports a rich and memorable soundtrack by composer Klaus Badelt.
Michael J. Bassett directs efficiently and economically, as he did in his previous film Wilderness. The story is well paced and the narrative is relatively lean. There is a strong supporting cast including Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige and Max von Sydow. Their presence adds weight to the proceedings and covers some of the shortcomings of the somewhat concise screenplay. The action scenes are well choreographed, being violent but not excessively explicit. The CGI and other physical FX work are perfectly acceptable, although opinion is divided over final "demon" at the films conclusion. It is functional and serves it purpose as a climatic and narrative "MacGuffin".
Many reviews at the time praised the production but were critical of what they saw as a very generic product. However true that may be of the story's central premise, the film is elevated by James Purefoy's strong lead performance. Seldom are characters this well fleshed out in genre movies. Ultimately Solomon Kane biggest asset is that it does exactly what it sets out to do and provides audiences with 109 minutes of fantasy/horror adventure. There are no postmodern one liners or annoying comic relief; just an honest old fashioned genre film made in an appropriate tone. It’s a shame that the movie never managed to kick-start the franchise that it was obviously hoping to create.