Man In Black
by Brody Rossiter
Horror filmmaking is often the sum of several intricate parts; a harmony of sorts, drawing upon influences pulled from both morbid reality and dark fantasy. Horror isn’t limited to its scares, and that’s why it can incorporate elements from several different genres of storytelling, from romance to mystery, with relative ease. Horror can be a mood, an aesthetic, a realisation, and this is why a horror cinema doesn’t necessarily have to be all that scary.
This is where action-horror comes into focus. While terror-filled shocks may not be the core concern of the sub-genre, the violent mayhem unfolding upon the screen is greatly reinforced by a deathly setting. Adapted from Robert E. Howard’s popular pulp magazine character of the same name, Solomon Kane is a 2009 fantasy adventure that employs both blistering combat and a breathtakingly end-of-days backdrop overflowing with hellfire and brimstone.
Kane, a gruff puritan warrior portrayed with great gusto by quintessential Englishman, James Purefoy (whom many will recognise as The Following’s murderous cult leader, Joe Carrol) isn’t a fan of evil, despite once being a font from which it flowed. This doesn’t mean he’s your typical heroic, white knight in shining armour, in fact, he’s much more of an anti-hero adorned in a midnight shade of black.
After narrowly avoiding having his damned soul being claimed by the devil’s reaper and his giant flaming claymore (this is the most metal sentence I’ve ever written) Kane turns to the church for sanctuary. Nevertheless, the shadow of Solomon’s past is too dark for even God to rest in. He is cast out and told to return to his former homeland. Unfortunately for Solomon, his newfound pacifism isn’t shared by the ruthless gangs of thieves and killers that plague the roads, and he is quickly thrown back into a new violent war. Only this time, Solomon fights on the side of the light.
Purefoy himself has highlighted how he has been typecast as a villain throughout his recent film and television careers. Ultimately, there is good reason for this; he’s an incredibly engaging villain, capable of instantly switching between charming megalomaniac and soulless killer with ease. Purefoy is a well-equipped classical actor, who, when thrust into the role of an action-hero exhibiting moral light and shade, albeit a swashbuckling west-country puritan, becomes something quite special, balancing muscular physicality with great emotional depth and an unforgettably unique sense of identity.
From haunted throne rooms dripping with cursed riches, to frugal monasteries encased in ice, to devastated farmlands dotted with cannibalised bodies, the scale and imagination on show with regards to world building is vast and immersive. This vision of England is a stage, a torrid and largely inhospitable stage inhabited by monstrosities that adopt many different forms yet all thirst for blood and gold.
Solomon Kane is an unforgivably overlooked action movie, possessing a talented cast, thrilling swordplay and wonderfully evocative aesthetic. Repent and discover its countless thrilling terrors.