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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Preacher comics, and potentially the AMC television adaptation as well.]
There’s a moment in the first episode of Preacher where a drunken Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) threatens to make a man sound like a bunny in a bear trap. Confused on the mechanics of that threat? Custer clears it right up in a matter of sickening seconds.
It’s not the first moment of gratuitous violence on the new AMC series, either, coming only after viewers have already witnessed an assassin bite another killer’s ear off, which in turn follows a hedonistic vampire turning an airplane filled with slayers into a veritable meat factory.
Though these scenes are not ripped straight out of the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon comics on which the show is based, they are tonally faithful. In fact, they’re rather subdued in comparison to the nasty material contained within the Preacher source material. Across 66 main series issues and various tie-in installments, characters shoot each other’s limbs off, others are decapitated (some more fatally than others), eyeballs are removed by holy entities … and that’s not even counting the endless stream of violent action committed against the antagonist, Herr Starr.
Indeed, there’s no better example than Starr when it comes to discussing the violence of Preacher. The highly trained and highly offensive killer routinely finds himself on the receiving end of some very bad, permanent action. One moment late in the series sees him doing battle against an attack dog — and it does not work out well for either party.
(For those brave enough to see the image of Starr’s dog fight, click here … but fair warning, it’s not safe for work.)
This is the exact type of nastiness found all throughout the Preacher comics. But will it be found throughout the Preacher TV series? Again, from the premiere episode alone, the creators of the show are not shying away from brutal action. Speaking at a press conference attended by The Hollywood Reporter, executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made it clear that they’re able to get away with a lot more explicit content than even they expected.
“If anything, I’m surprised at what we can do,” said Rogen. “The Walking Dead has given us a lot of precedent to do a lot of stuff that we might not have otherwise been able to do.”
Rogen added that conversations with AMC’s network standards and practices tend to focus on storytelling — and what’s more, the fact that a conversation even exists is a different mode of operating than he’s used to, coming from the film side of the business.
“With the MPAA, you don’t have a conversation,” he said. “You submit your stuff, you get notes back, and if it gets a rating you’re not hoping for then you cross your fingers and re-submit it. But with [television], they call and talk and explain what they like and what they’re trying to do. Pretty much every time, we’ve gotten to do everything we’ve wanted.”
Yes, many details between the comics and the show will differ, but the tone and spirit of Preacher remains across the two mediums — and that includes some of the more gruesome aspects of the story. In other words, if Herr Starr ever appears onscreen with a dog, viewers would be wise to avert their eyes.
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