It’s odd that in the realm of cult cinema a title should fall through the cracks, namely because cult films by their nature already fell through the cracks and that’s why they’re cult films. So for a film that fell through the cracks to fall through the cracks again is pretty remarkable. But such is life…
Behold, basement dwellers, your next midnight movie: “THE JUDAS PROJECT”, a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ set in modern times…
When I was a child I flipped my lid when I saw this poster. Jesus, clearly wearing Wrangler blue jeans, is about to go Emperor Palpatine on a bunch of Apache helicopters. And with the city so vulnerable in the background, we can only imagine that the head of Lady Liberty will go smashing through a surprise party shortly after. However, the producers took a page out of the “Jason Takes Manhattan” playbook, presenting a setting which never really appears in the final cut.
But what the film lacks in scale it makes up for with the kind of grindhouse sensibilities not seen since Hershel Gordon Lewis gave us 10,000 Maniacs. It’s the story of a white trash Jesus living in some shit-kicker town run by Jewy lawyers and land developers who seek to silence the prophet to make money. To be honest, I was pretty wrecked when I watched this film and can’t remember everything that happened. Regardless, it ends with Jesus being beaten like a rented mule and getting nailed to a fucking barn while the hillbillies from Deliverance hoot and holler like they’re at a town hall. Yes, they nail Jesus to a fucking barn! [5:49]
There are a couple things I found strikingly unusual about this film, other than the quasi-mullet that Jesus has. First, in choosing to set the film in “modern” times, the filmmakers opted to use The South as their locale, which kind of defeats the purpose. You expect to see Jesus jump a bale of hay in the General Lee while “Dixie” plays on the car horn. “Looks like ol’ Jesus got himself in a heap-a-trouble!” I should also add, Jesus in this telling is called “Jesse”, so that’s not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.
The second is the most obvious, which is the title. “The Judas Project”, when seen atop a poster depicting helicopters and a skyline, seems to imply some sort of science-run-amok angle wherein Jesus was either cloned, is a robot, came from outer space, or has some disease which spreads through the populace creating other prophets and now the military has to stop him before he reaches the general population. It would be an interesting twist on Carpenter’s “The Thing” to have a creature which morphs from deity to deity, disguising its own hideous form until Kevin Bacon nails it to the barn and hits it with a flamethrower.
While this film was made nearly 17 years ago, I was shocked to find that you can still donate to the film’s production today. According to the website, they’re currently taking it around the globe. I’m not sure if maybe they’re planning a re-mastered director’s cut, but I do think that adding Jabba the Hut back into the cantina sequence would only add to Jesse’s backstory, especially if they can put it in 3D.