Greetings again from the darkness. Horror films and religion are a match made in heaven … so to speak. The linking of demonic possession and religious artifacts pre-dates cinema, and yet has long been a key element on the big screen. The effect of the cross on Dracula is one example, and of course, the priest visiting young Regan in THE EXORCIST is one for the ages. So many other examples exist that entire books have been written on the topic. It’s because of this history that we quickly accept the setting and groundwork of this latest from writer-director Christopher Smith (TRIANGLE, 2009) and co-writer Laurie Cook.
Optometrist Grace (Jena Malone) lives alone with her cat when she is notified that her brother (Steffan Cennydd), a priest, is dead. Supposedly he killed a senior priest before committing suicide. Grace is immediately suspicious of the story and decides to conduct her own investigation. She travels to the convent, located on the edge of an oceanside cliff in a remote area of Scotland, where she discusses the case with Detective Harris (Thoren Ferguson). They both have serious doubts that Mother Superior’s (Janet Suzman) chronicle of events is accurate.
Father Romero (Danny Huston) arrives on assignment from the Vatican in order to re-consecrate the convent, and to do so, he must ensure that the truth in the case is disclosed. Adding an element is Grace’s admission to being “indifferent” towards God, which of course, makes her a target of the nuns, including a creepy “peek-a-boo” nun played by Elidih Fisher.
The initial set up with Grace and her arrival are extremely well done, and Ms. Malone proves yet again why she has long been a favorite. The good vs evil stage is set, and then filmmaker Smith begins the twists and misdirection. Flashbacks to Grace’s childhood are a bit heavy-handed and used to spell out a bit too much, and some of these are simply too obvious and generate a few too many eye-rolls. Mr. Huston is always solid in whatever supporting role he plays, but fans of Jena Malone will likely be somewhat disappointed in a movie that doesn’t take full advantage of her presence. Regardless of that, the Scotland countryside is shown in its full glory and that’s quite a sight. Just don’t expect as much from a horror movie that’s just trying too hard.
In theaters beginning February 10, 2023
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