There is a lot I could say about Rich Mallery’s newest film Holy Terror. Some good, some bad, but not much in-between. I saw his first film (Sociopathia) a few years ago and thought it was interesting, but not my cup of tea. The camerawork was good (enough) and the cast was great. So when I had a chance to see his sophomore effort, I was pretty excited to see what he had planned next. When I read the synopsis I was disappointed to see that it was an exorcism movie, but I was more than willing to keep an open mind and give it a fair shake. This open-minded approach should have kept me from being too judgmental, but my “possession movie” fatigue kicked in and I couldn’t help but compare it to much better films.
The story revolves around a couple who has recently lost their young son in an accident and shows the two making their way through the grief. Strange sounds and figures start popping up in their suburban home, making them believe that their son may still be in the house. The activity ramps up when the foxy sister comes to stay, giving the dark presence a body to wreak havoc on the rest of the family. From here on, its all current/ex priests, nuns and psychics aunts trying to keep this evil from taking their lives and souls.
The best parts of the film are in the first two acts. After we learn about the son, there is some real mood building that gives the film a cool and sinister vibe. That vibe really builds tension and offers a few good scares in that first 45 minutes. Unfortunately, when we hit the third act it all falls apart. The simple (and unoriginal) plot quickly spirals into a big mess and everything I enjoyed got dumped for a lackluster exorcism. Out-of-the-blue plot points are introduced, only to be never mentioned again and the poorly delivered lines become unbearable. I truly wish the filmmakers would have tried a different route and subverted the normal clichés, but that third act just dove face first into every low-budget exorcism movie that I have ever seen. Like I said before, it was a mixed bag but at least all of this happens in less than 80 minutes.
LUKE TIPTON: I just watched a new indie horror flick at the request of Justin and my mind is filled with questions. Don’t get me wrong, Holy Terror is not a good movie… but it left me with a number of unanswered questions that continue to bother me:
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Luke… but not really]
- Why the large portrait of Humphrey Bogart hanging on the living room wall?
- How does a statistic of 1-out-of-10 constitute as extremely rare? Holy shit, how many demons has this Father Jacob encountered in his career?
- What was the deal with the hand grabbing former nun Catherine in the church? Has she been stalked by demons continually for the 10 years after the botched exorcism of the prologue? Her out-of-control drinking seems to suggest so.
- What the hell happened between the ex-nun and the now-deceased Father Murphy? And what about the implications of child molestation? That’s a pretty big revelation to toss out. Clearly, she acted haunted by those memories when the demon brings it up, but it does nothing for the plot itself, and is merely confusing.
- Why exactly was the demonic presence in the couple’s home to begin with? How did it get there? What did it have to do with the dead child? That was a little confusing. Like, I get that it’s some kind of malignant force, and random evil can be scary, but here it just seemed totally arbitrary, because the movie needed a plot.
- So is the demon actually Satan? Like, the big guy himself? Beelzebub? Old Scratch? Abaddon, the Destroyer of Worlds? What is Father of Lies doing wasting his time on these bozos? I realize whatever it is could just as well be lying, but that aspect of the movie just more sloppy than ambiguous.
- Why did Holy Terror feel the need to bother with a demon in the first place when little Joshua’s smile is the creepiest thing in the movie by far?
RACHAEL HAUSCHILD: Unfortunately, this missed the mark on so many levels for me. This is a possession film but also about a family falling apart after their son passes away. They try to reach their son through a medium, but get interjected by a demon who soon after takes over the body of the visiting junkie aunt of the boy who passed away. I get what the movie was going for but it just wasn’t executed the way I’d hope. This was painted to me as dealing with the deceased boy and mainly wanting to contact him, however, you barely got any of that.
Most of this was so random too, where you just keep thinking “why?”. The part that threw me for a loop was when the ex nun whips out a bottle of Ketel One in the middle of her praying at church and takes a swig. I must say that scene made me laugh so loud I scared my dog. Nothing added up.
The script was cringe worthy at best, the acting was forced and unemotional, and the effects could’ve been a whole lot better. This movie involves an exorcism, so make it over the top and elaborate instead of reserved and playing it safe. I’ve seen high school film projects with effects better than this. All the sub plots and trying to play connect the dots made this movie fall short of entertaining and instead was a chore to watch.
GARRETT SMITH: Don’t watch this movie!
It feels like it’s an hour too long, and its runtime is only an hour and seventeen minutes. And it understands horror about as much as it understands cocaine. For example, when laying down to bed, wearing her pajamas and pulling the covers up to her waist, the main character’s sister leans over to her nightstand and blows two lines of coke before turning off her lamp and laying down to sleep. The movie works about as well as that plot device does.
JUSTIN HARLAN: I’m in the habit of not trashing indie films because I know just how much heart, soul, and life savings go into making a film, but I really struggled to get through this one. That’s not to call it worthless, because it’s not… not at all.
Somewhere in this film is a good story, a horrifying tale of terror, but it’s buried in some poor acting and poor decisions from the filmmakers. Yet, even as it stands, cutting this film to a 20-30 minute short could transform it into something legit. Rich Mallery’s core ideas are strong, but the script and direction built out of it are lacking. I hold out hope that more honing of his ideas could bring about a decent filmmaker yet.
I wrap by once again thanking indie filmmakers, Mallery included, for their love of film and all the lengths they go to in order to keep the dream alive.