A winged being descends onto Earth in Los Angeles. He then raids a weapons warehouse and steals a police car, traveling towards the edge of the Mojave Desert. Elsewhere, a single father named Kyle stops at the Paradise Falls Diner. There, he meets the owner, Bob Hanson. Also at the diner is Bob’s son, Jeep, a short-order cook named Percy, Charlie, a pregnant waitress, Howard and Sandra Anderson, a married couple, and Audrey, their teenage daughter. Though it appears to be an ordinary day, things take a turn for the strange when the diner’s communications equipment fails and an anomalously hostile elderly woman steps inside.
The elderly woman surprises everyone with her profane death threats and it’s clear something is seriously wrong when she lunges at Howard, biting a piece out of his neck. Kyle is left with no choice but to shoot her. Just when they’re about to transport Howard to the hospital, a monumental swarm of flies surrounds the diner. Though small in size, their great number prevents the patrons from accessing the outside world. The same, however, does not apply to the people with the same ill-intent as the elderly woman from descending upon the diner. Just as the sky turns black, the patrons gain a powerful ally in the form of the archangel Michael.
Given the odd behavior of the elderly woman, which includes her profanity, ability to crawl walls, and general malevolence, the natural conclusion is that she along with the people rapidly approaching the diner are possessed by demons. The information Michael imparts reveals the opposite to be true. God, having lost His faith in humanity, sent His angels to eradicate the human race. To this end, He seeks to kill Charlie – specifically to ensure her unborn child dies in the womb. This child is destined to be the savoir of humankind. Michael was the one God entrusted to kill the baby, but he turned on Him, believing humankind is not a lost cause.
Although the premise of this film sounds like it would make for a compelling conflict, the actual execution leaves a lot to be desired. Going into 2010s, the horror genre was in something of a dark age. Thanks to the success of franchises such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th, the genre had a clear formula. We’re introduced to a cast of ordinary people, and they go to an isolated area where they’re picked off one by one by the local serial killer who happens to be around. However, as this formula became more commonly used, the associated tropes eventually congealed until only the basic affectations remained.
The most obvious consequence affected the casts of these films. While early horror film directors realized the importance of making characters likable to preserve suspense when the killer is nearby, those from the 2000s did not. All too often we would be stuck with a cast so unlikable, we’re just waiting for the killer to off them in increasingly creative ways. Even if it was how audiences were supposed to feel, it didn’t change the fact that they had to spend a significant chunk of the film’s runtime with these unlikable dullards. Because of this, horror fans became increasingly burned out on their own genre.
The reason I choose to mention this is because Legion is guilty of doing exactly that. While I admit it’s not the absolute worst cast a horror film has ever had, there is no getting around that barely anyone stands out. When the cast members do stand out, it’s invariably for the wrong reasons. Shortly after the angels’ attack, Howard is discovered crucified behind the diner. When Sandra tries to rescue him, he explodes into acid. Percy is then killed saving Sandra. A now-insane Sandra attempts to hand Charlie’s baby to the mob of angel-possessed humans, forcing Michael to kill her.
The actual conflict driving this film is rather insipid as well. Supposedly God has lost faith in humanity, yet the manner in which He chooses to exterminate them suggests a strong degree of petty vindictiveness. Despite losing faith in humanity, He resorts to decidedly inhumane methods with which to kill them off – an evil far greater than any mortal could ever devise. While one could say his depiction in Legion was inspired by the Old Testament, there’s still no getting around that neither He nor His angels have any claim to the moral high ground whatsoever – especially not when they begin using children to toy with the patrons.
In fact, I would argue the fatal weakness of Legion is that is forgoes showing in favor of telling. We are told – at length – that God has declared humanity a lost cause, but why He reached His conclusion isn’t clear. The scenes before the apocalypse begins don’t show humans acting particularly untoward or loutish. It’s true the cast isn’t particularly likable, but then again, a majority of their worst actions are spurred from misguided survival instincts, which they wouldn’t have needed to act upon in the first place had He not tried to destroy humanity. If the film wanted God’s attack to hold up under any kind of scrutiny, the writers needed to lend some kind of credibility to His reasoning. As it stands, the narrative only really works if God is evil for its own sake.
Various other details don’t add up either. The angels don’t simply possess the patrons for no adequately explained reason. Michael says it’s because they can only possess people with weak hearts, yet the weak-hearted Sandra is completely immune to their influence. It’s possible Charlie’s baby exudes an energy that prevents their powers from working, but the narrative doesn’t even imply this is the case. Not only that, but when the archangel Gabriel appears on the scene, he proves more than a match for the patrons, effortlessly slicing through them with his wings, which appear to be as sharp as metal. Why would they need to possess humans when their normal bodies are far more powerful? Also, where is Satan in all of this? Surely, if humanity is doomed, he and his demons would have a vested interest in keeping them alive? Or barring that, why didn’t they join the carnage? It would be the prime opportunity to harvest souls.
Finally, Charlie’s baby himself is a plot point that manages to open up several cans of worms all at once. He is a transparent metaphor for the second coming of Christ, but he is God, who is also trying to destroy the world right now. In short, God is trying to prevent Himself from being born in order to save humanity by destroying humanity before that can happen. The film establishes that Christian mythology isn’t completely accurate, but it comes across as the writers adhering to it except when it’s inconvenient to the plot. It might also explain why God goes through the trouble of having His angels possess humans and going on an inefficient rampage when He could just as easily wipe them out with an incurable, highly contagious plague or an asteroid strike. The conflict of this film reminds me of countless pioneering adventure games in which you could break half or more of the puzzles by exercising common sense, yet those easy solutions are never available because otherwise there would be no challenge at all. Legion functions on a similar principle – the exact second you begin thinking about it in depth, its integrity vanishes in a puff of logic.
At its absolute best, Legion is an unintentional comedy masquerading as a supernatural horror film. However, even if that’s the kind of film you’re looking for, there are plenty of other bad works I would recommend over Legion. It doesn’t have the courtesy to be fascinatingly bad. It’s not particularly quotable, the acting, though awkward, isn’t memorable, and the whole story crumbles in the face of logic. On top of being excessively preachy, even by the standards of 2010s filmmaking standards, it fails the same exact way countless other subpar horror features have in the years leading up to it. On its face, Legion has a great concept, but with its horrendous writing and sophomoric brand of humor, I can safely consider it one of the worst films of the 2010s.
Final Score: 1/10