A returning soldier is disillusioned by religion and forms
his own church without Jesus Christ in a small town.
Wise Blood (1979)
Directed by John Huston
Written by Benedict Fitzgerald and Michael Fitzgerald
Starring Brad Dourif, Dan Shor, Amy Wright, Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Nell Santacroce, Ned Beatty, John Huston, William Hickey
Based on the novel by Flannery O'Connor
As much as I love Brad Dourif in films like The Lord of the Rings and the Chucky franchise, I really wish he'd step back into his dramatic roots more often. Many people forget he's an Oscar-nominated actor thanks to his fantastic performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He's easily the best part of this frightfully uneven, oddly-paced religious satire. Wise Blood has an interesting premise, but never goes as far as it should. Instead, it's lead character Hazel Motes (Dourif) ends up trapped in the same cycle of religious fervor he is trying to tear people out of. It makes it hard to pinpoint exactly what the message was.
Hazel Motes is a soldier returning home from the war, where he was wounded. After being mistaken for a preacher and then getting angry at a street preacher (Stanton) for condemning people, he starts preaching against religion and against Christ. Along the way, he inspires a conman (Beatty) to copy his message, convinces a local (Shor) to find something new to believe in and steal a gorilla costume, and repeatedly turns down the advances of a preacher's sheltered daughter (Wright). It's a difficult film to follow at times, mostly because there isn't really a plot. Things just sort of happen one after another without anything connecting them together. And most of the time, it's either dull or confusing.
I think Huston was trying to make a religious satire that mocks the financial incentive religion has on the ones who preach it. Or maybe Hazel is just angry at the world he feels has betrayed him and owes him something. Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I really wanted to like this one, but I just couldn't get into it apart from Dourif's committed performance.