A young girl is pursued by heretics to sacrifice to their demon, and is saved by a heretic to the heretics.
I have a beef with the title, THE HERETICS. Heretics are classified as such when they go against established religious dogma; the term is especially applicable to baptized Catholics who believe anything other than the “truth” established by Mother Church. Bwohahahahahaha!!! The Roman Catholic Church taking for granted it has a monopoly on “truth”! When all it spews are fairy tales with moral lessons, no better than Aesop’s Fables or Kipling’s Just So Stories. Their truths are readily-apparent altruistic dictums, not some mystical esoterica formulated by supernatural gods (except for that “Worship Me Or Die” shit).
So the balls on the Catholic Church to come up with a term for someone who laughs in their faces over their idiocies! Therefore a “heretic” is not exactly an atheist, but a person who believes some other idiocy created by horny men.
Thus the title of this movie – though it aims to evoke a horrific cult – only makes me laugh, because whatever it is they’re worshipping is no better or worse than the horrific cult they abandoned, christianity. And then for one of their cult to go against them and rescue the girl they have marked for sacrifice – well, like Jeopardy, that’s Double Heresy!
The sacrifice is Gloria (Nina Kiri, a young brunette with come-hither eyes not unlike Margaret Qualley), saved on the altar by Thomas (Ry Barrett, young big guy not unlike David Harbour) because he thought she was “an angel” (hey, whatever keeps her from being stabbed, I guess). Ex-communicated from the heretical cult for his act of, uh, double heresy, Thomas now goes on the run with Gloria, with the cult pursuing them. The main hunter? Gloria’s girlfriend, Joan (Jorja Cadence, a plain redhead who wishes she was Emma Stone). [Also: lesbo action! In a B-movie? Brava!] Through Gloria’s sacrifice, Joan aims to conjure a demon named Abaddon. As you can guess, it’s one of those movies laboring under the weight of its own retarded religious logic, and barely watchable only because everyone in it looks like somebody else more qualified.
When movie opens on Gloria’s aborted sacrifice, it immediately loses cred with me because – she’s not naked.
Then it continues with writing missteps and directorial missteps that ruin any “horror” the film is trying to purvey.
WRITING: Joan answers a landline at one point, when every single character – including Joan – communicates by cellphone. Why? So she can slam it down in anger continuously. (Doesn’t look so dramatic with a cellphone, pressing the red phone icon over and over.) The writers (Chad Archibald and Jayme Laforest) couldn’t think of something else just as dramatic, like tipping over a table full of papers…?
DIRECTING: When Joan is searching for the missing Gloria, at first we do not know she is high priestess of the cult, so when she suddenly threatens a stranger with a penknife, asking, “Where is Gloria?!” it derails the movie. She plays it as if she just lost her head, but if it’s meant to be played like her character is revealing she is “something more” than just the girlfriend, Joan should have taken on her dominant high priestess demeanor for a hot second before she backed off to teen chick. Gloria’s sacrifice has to be made that night at full moon, so there is urgency in finding her, but Cadence hasn’t got the acting chops to pull off all those layers. And director Archibald left this milky take in the final cut.
When Joan stabs a cop and kills Gloria’s mother, her blandness makes us laugh at this audacity. Soon enough, we discover who Joan is; nonetheless, her trail of bodies should garner some repercussions. Nope. Like a David Cronenberg film, where the main characters just exist amongst themselves.
Thomas, meanwhile, is “keeping Gloria safe” by chaining her to a wall on the cold hard floor of a log cabin. If you love her that much, a mattress would go a long way to proving it, dude. We discover Joan is Thomas’s sister, and the cabin is a childhood haunt of theirs. So… it was absolutely the worst place to hide out. It’s like hiding Luke from his father on a foreign planet, then keeping his last name the same as his father’s – Skywalker.
Thomas sounds like the Voice of Reason in the movie, blaring, “There IS no god, no devil, no Abaddon!” Yet, though all atheist voices are welcomed in films about religious nuttery, there is contrary EVIDENCE staring him right in the face, such as…
…oh, Gloria slowly growing a pair of batwings from her back as Abaddon’s essence creeps in. Also, vomit, blood and snot aplenty, as he keeps threatening to shoot her and doesn’t. Exactly what demarcation line is he waiting for – hooves? No – until her vagina becomes unworkable, all bets are still on. Even with the vomit, blood and snot.
And, like all movies that involve magic – no rules.
- Why do they need to find Gloria and perform a ritual if the demon is slowly taking over her body anyway?
- Joan prays to the demon, “Help me find your vessel, so that I may bring you into this world,” – but the demon’s doing a fine job already without Joan’s help, transforming right under Thomas’s nose!
- Joan praying to the demon implies it is omniscient enough to know where Gloria is, and if so, should he need prayer prompting? Wouldn’t he guide her there anyway, because it benefits him?
- To chain Thomas to a wall, the demon conjures a skinny chain – that Thomas hacks through with a shovel. Why not one of those mighty chains you see in shipyards? Why not just bury him alive?!
- Something invisible (Abaddon, we presume) unlocks Gloria’s chain – then she sees Abaddon (Austin Duffy) in another room – then he chases her – hang on! Why didn’t you grab her while you were unlocking her chain?!
- Why was Abaddon unlocking Gloria’s chain anyway? Does she need to be unchained for him to get up in there?
- Joan’s cult chant (after most of Gloria’s transformation happened without them), and Abaddon appears outside the cabin and slinks in toward Gloria, all horns and batwings and mummified face, amongst all the fanatics in weird bark masks (I guess it’s scary to 10-year-olds) – but is he IN her or OUT of her? And apparently he can control anything magically whether he’s in or out, so – wha–?
- In the stupidest bit of magic: Thomas points a shotgun at Abaddon and the demon cajoles him to pull the trigger. Suddenly, Thomas snaps out of it and realizes he is pointing the gun at his own face. So let me get this straight: the demon has the power to manipulate Thomas’s limbs to make him point the shotgun at his own face; has the power to make Thomas’s brain perceive he is pointing it at the demon – and Thomas “snaps out of” the spell 3 seconds later? Why not just manipulate him to shoot himself in the face immediately? Problem solved.
THE HERETICS would be scary to 10-year-olds if it’s the first religious horror movie they see. And if they haven’t met a catholic yet.