And God Remembered Babylon
14 Apr 2022
Matthew Ewald, Adelai Lawrence, Jeff Johnson, Shannon DeSalvo
There's a long standing tradition in films of mixing supernatural horror with Nazis. Ever since Indiana Jones wrestled with Hitler's goons in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Hollywood has woken up to the infinite possibilities of the Nazis' leanings towards the occult. Since then there's been no shortage of B-movies giving us Nazi ghosts, Nazi Hell holes, Nazi demons, Nazi zombies, Nazi zombies on the moon....
Joining this tradition now, is Matthew Ewald, with his newest film-making venture, And God Remembered Babylon. Right from the off the symbolism is everywhere with Jesus on the Crucifix and the Star of David facing off against the Swastika. Ewald is Father Joel Barton, a soldier behind enemy lines, yet still very much a man on a mission from God. He talks of the horrors of war in a note for note recreation of Jim Caviezel's voice-over in The Thin Red Line and mentions a place the locals only talk about as 'The Black Barn'. In there lies the outpourings of the Nazis' evil and the consequences of their pact with the Devil. It is Father Barton's job to exorcise this enemy.
By his own admission, Ewald has said that he got bored in lockdown and needed to do something. His creative juices were flowing and he felt a longing to make a film, no matter how limited its budget or where he had to scrounge materials from. The result is something that is fairly bare but which also comes with a real sense of urgency; something which helps ramp up the tension and the danger within the film's sequences. Ewald's flair for the theatrical also helps as his directorial style lays the imagery on thick, leaving the viewer in no doubt as to the forces in play.
If at points the audience is aware that a lot of what's going on is Ewald and a few of his pals jumping around in the woods and hanging sticks up in their barn, everything does come satisfyingly into focus with the main showdown. This sequence in particular is very strong and lends a real sense of gravitas to the rest of the film, showing that while Ewald's production may well be B-movie his concept is definitely A-grade.
Then, almost as if to test this, Ewald tries to extend his concept in a debatable future-world meta-narrative scene, complete with its own David Lynch character known only as The Authoritarian (Jeff Johnson). This scene doesn't add much to the film as a whole, and could easily have been left out, but it is interesting to see how far Ewald was willing to take his idea and how he underpinned his 'Demon Nazis in the barn' scenario.
There are obvious issues with And God Remembered Babylon, not least the budget, the props and the acting, but it's hard not to feel excited and intrigued by Ewald's work. Obviously meant to be behind the camera or the typewriter, his determination of vision comes through quickly and clearly, with a lot of big ideas being squeezed into a short half-hour space. If this is what Ewald can achieve with no money and no industry around him it will be very interesting to see what he can do when he has access to both.