THE HERETICS (2017)
Creepy flick finds a pretty young woman named Gloria (Nina Kiri) kidnapped by a cult for some sort of ceremony. They commit mass suicide leaving Gloria a blood-spattered survivor. Five years later she’s still haunted by the events, living with her mother, Ruth (Nina Richmond) and going to group therapy where she’s met her girlfriend Joan (Jorja Cadence). Just when she thinks things might be getting better, she’s kidnapped by Thomas (Ry Barrett) a former cult member who claims he’s trying to save her. He warns her that not all the cult members are dead, and she is key to the birth of their deity. While Joan and Ruth begin to search for her, Gloria begins a horrifying transformation in a secluded cabin that no one may be able to save her from.
Horror is written and directed by Chad Archibald (Bite, Ejecta) from a story by Jayme Laforest. As illustrated by his work in Bite, Archibald can come up with some creepy and disturbing stuff and does so again here. He seems to have a penchant for body horror, as captive Gloria begins to transform before would-be savior Thomas’ eyes. The second half of the movie especially has some unsettling stuff, as cult members resurface, and an unearthly ceremony begins again. The cabin in the woods setting is a much-used trope, but Archibald gets good use out of it and shows he has a very effective visual style, too. There are some very unsettling scenes here, and there are also a few surprises and reveals as characters are not who they seem, and flashbacks fill us in on more details of what happened to Gloria five years ago. It’s a spooky and atmospheric flick that provides some memorable images and a few shocking moments. It also has some violent and gory scenes and the FX portraying them are well done. It’s not perfect. We can see a few things coming and lead Nina Kiri is sadly reduced to a damsel in distress in the second half where earlier on she seemed like she was capable of giving the character some depth. Too bad, Gloria seems to sit on the sidelines during a time when her character is proving crucial. That aside, this is an effective horror from filmmaker Chad Archibald.
The cast was on point for the most part. Lead Nina Kiri was good at portraying an emotionally damaged young woman trying to heal from a horrific experience. She gives Gloria a sense of tragedy when her transformation starts and it’s too bad she isn’t given much to do in the second half but sit in a chair and looked hurt and bewildered. Ry Barret is somewhat likable as the ex-cultist who fell for the victim. He gives Thomas a sense of inner pain and torment and a touch of nobility. He also remains a tad creepy and that works in the context of the story. Jorja Cadence is the real show stealer. Her Joan seems like a strong, determined woman at the start, but certain revelations about her take the character to a whole new level and the actress is up for the task. She plays it well and avoids camp or going over-the-top. Rounding out is Nina Richmond, who is solid as Gloria’s caring and concerned mother.
Overall, this was a very creepy and effective flick from a director who is showing some potential both atmospherically and visually. He has a feel for body horror and uses it effectively as his last two films dealt with physical transformation. He has a good visual eye and was able to use some familiar tropes effectively. Aside from a few issues, this was an unsettling horror and makes for a spooky night on the couch.
Rated 3 (out of 4) pairs of antlers, perfect for that cult ceremony mask you always wanted.