Arriving more like an assault on the senses than a traditional film release, Realm Of The Damned is a gore- filled, thrashing metal, comic book concoction that delivers everything you would expect, and leaves subtlety to lesser music forms. Brutal, bold and never less than brazen, this is an animated comic that plays like an extended music video, and understands exactly who its audience is.
Breaking free from the guitar cacophony exists a simple, yet well written narrative. Supernatural beings have taken over the earth and only one man – who also happens to be a bit of a baddie when he feels like it – can save humanity. To do so, the aptly named Van Helsing must team up with his natural enemy to rid the world of a demon who threatens us all, and so on.
Based on an original comic, animators Craig Hinde and Reece Saunders have taken artist Pye Parr’s stylish work and given it a twist. Imagine a graphic novel, where the individual panels have one or two moving parts and you’ll have a rough idea how Realm Of The Damned works. Dialogue is lifted directly from the page and given an extravagant, scene-chewing exuberance that reflects the over-the-top visuals and droning, heightened musical score. Familiar names from the dark corners of the metal world adorn the cast list like leather-clad trophies, with Morbid Angel’s David Vincent bringing thunderous tones to Van Helsing and Jill Janus voicing Vampire Commander Athena, and everyone does seem to be having enormous fun. The stand out is Dani Filth, from Cradle Of Filth, who voices the big, bad demon Balaur and Van Helsing’s one-time ally The Werewolf King. Filth brings a gravitas to the roles, a larger-than-life delivery demanded by the nature of the characters.
As a film, Realm Of The Damned doesn’t quite hold together, as scenes that work in the source material don’t always lend themselves to this new format. Emphasis falls on the voice work to carry the emotion and heft of a scene and this is often either too extreme as to be almost comical, or lacking altogether.
As an extended heavy metal music video, however, or an experiment in what can be done with adapting a graphic novel, Realm Of The Damned must be admired. It isn’t for everyone – the musical style itself will see it that – but it is an interesting concept, and shows what can be done differently in the genre.
REALM OF THE DAMNED / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: TOM PATON / SCREENPLAY: ALEC WORLEY / ILLUSTRATOR: SIMON PARR / STARRING: DAVID VINCENT, JILL JANUS, DANI FILTH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW