Created by the great Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian, Kull of Atlantis, and more) Solomon Kane is a character set in the timeframe of the 16th and early 17th century. Kane is a Puritan whose only goal appears to be to destroy evil in all its incarnations, from vampires to witches. Kane uses a variety of weapons, from blades to flintlock pistols; in later adventures, he acquires a juju staff and a magic talisman. Solomon Kane’s adventures are chronicled in short stories and poems (no novels), most of which were published in Weird Tales.
Released in 2009, the movie Solomon Kane brings Howard’s Puritan to life, and although the film presents an original adventure, it effectively captures the world of Kane, although perhaps it does lean a little more toward sword and sorcery than the horror world that Kane actually inhabits.
In the movie, Solomon Kane (played by James Purefoy) is a privateer in search of gold. His greed, which has corrupted him further into an amalgam of deeper sins, catches up to him, when the Devil’s Reaper (Ian Whyte) traps him in a room as Kane attempts to secure a fountain of treasure. Instead, Kane is damned by the Reaper, who tells him that Satan will collect his soul. Kane manages to escape, but he realizes it is only a temporary reprieve, as the devil always collects his due.
Fearful not only of his body but his soul, Kane leaves behind all sin, attempting to save his soul by embracing God and confining himself in a monastery. The curse follows him, and he is soon sent away. Wandering the Earth, Kane falls in with a Puritan family, where he begins to feel at ease. However, nightmares plague him, particularly one that tells of his royal birth to a father (Max von Sydow as Josiah Kane) who wanted him to become a priest and a brother (Samuel Roukin as Marcus Kane) who he supposedly and accidentally killed. The family is headed toward transportation to the New World, and Kane elects to go with him, as he is returning to Devon, his ancestral home.
But Kane and his temporary family do not get very far. They are attacked by a group of men led by a mysterious masked warrior. The group slays most of the family, with only young Meredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her mother (Alice Krige) left alive. While the mother is abandoned, Meredith is thrown into bondage, supposedly to serve a sorcerer by the name of Malachi (Jason Flemyng).
Realizing that his life of piety brings nothing, Solomon Kane at last realizes that he is the Hand of God. He secures his signature weapons and sets off to rescue Meredith from the mysterious rider and the sorcerer Malachi, both of whom Kane learns have set up fortifications at his family castle in Devon. As he battles his way to and into the castle, Kane learns the fate of his father and his brother. The final reel has Kane battling the mysterious rider, Malachi, and a demon summoned directly from hell.
Filmed in Czech Republic, Solomon Kane is a rousing adventure, one filled with facets of Kane’s world, such as the ghouls hidden under the church, as well as material inspired by other Howard worlds, such as sorcerers and demons. James Purefoy is excellent as Kane, bringing to life the somber character imagined by Howard. The acting throughout is good, with all the actors getting into character and inhabiting the strange and dark world.
Director Michael J. Bassett has fully embraced the character of Solomon Kane. The movie serves as an effective introduction to the character, his motivations, and the world he inhabits. Although Bassett has crafted an original adventure with source material from the author, it nevertheless works as a movie, so much so that even hardcore Howard fans will be seduced by the story, which is topnotch.
A minor quibble then is the fact that I would have preferred to have seen more of Howard’s ideas infused into the movie. For example, vampires should have been introduced, perhaps a city of vampires (“Hills of the Dead”) or a vampire queen (“The Moon of Skulls”). However, the inclusion of the ghouls was a nice nod to Howard, who used them to pay homage to the mighty H.P. Lovecraft.
Fans of dark fantasy, fantasy, sword and sorcery, and even horror will dig Solomon Kane. I sincerely hope that more movies are in the works, and I also hope that Purefoy will continue in his role of Kane.