Mercy (Blumhouse Productions 2014) just might have the set up of the perfect storm to be the next big horror film. If it is not enough for you that Mercy is based on the short story “Gramma” from Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew, the cast of Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead), and Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story) plus the timeless Shirley Knight, might be just enough alone to convince you to watch the movie. However, remember that even the strongest of storms can fizzle out at the last minute.
The story follows two brothers who, with their mother, move in to their grandmother’s house to care for her as she enters her final days. The youngest brother, who has always had a special bond with her, starts to pick up clues that his loving grandma has woven a relationship with the dark arts. The problem is…grandma is not the only one dark spirits have an interest in.
The viewer’s mood immediately gets put into isolation and despair. Set in a small country town (rather than the usual location of King’s Maine) the director, Peter Cornwell, alternates between silhouettes of dead oak trees (think the cabin in Evil Dead) to and wide angle shots of the remote country side. Furthermore, I have to give kudos to Cornwell for using close up shots of the extras in the nursing home scene as a form of backdrop. Nothing says disturbing as watching an catatonic elderly person drool on themselves.
There are a few pop up scares that the movie relies on. Being that they placed in the right moment, they become memorable and work for their scene. (Anyone have a fear of something under their bed?)
I only have two problems with Mercy. First is the use of CGI to show the “dark spirit”. I still believe that what you don’t or can’t see is much more frightening than staring an obviously computer generated shadow’s glowing eyes. This totally kills the eerie vibe that the movie had created up until this point. I could think of a handful of alternative things Cornwell could have done with this scene to avoid this.
Secondly I have an issue with the ending. We all know that King likes to send his readers into a tailspin and leave them with an unforeseeable ending. However screenwriter Matt Greenberg (1408, Halloween H20, and the Prophecy II) changed the ending just enough so that it leaves the viewer screaming at the screen “…AND!?!” with an unsettled feeling of incompleteness. All that build up and then I was only to be left with a pair of blue balls.
Like I said before, even the strongest of storms can fizzle out at the last minute.
A horror purist will appreciate the nod to H.P. Lovecraft that King uses for the book of spells. Also, see if you can pick out the reference to Stephen King’s own, The Stand.
Overall this was not a complete waste of my 90 minutes, just the last 5. The atmosphere is cool and the acting is appropriate for the script they had to work with. For a straight to video release, it is worth the watch and possibly even the discount bin buy. Not a total loss, Mercy does rather well when compared to some of the talent that is floating in the Netflix toilet bowl.
Renfield Rasputin writes horror and still thinks putting plastic wrap on toilet seats is funny.