New in select Canadian theaters this week from Find out where and then here!
THE HERETICS (2017)
Directed by Chad Archibald
Written by Jayme Laforest
Starring Nina Kiri, Jorja Cadence, Ry Barrett, Nina Richmond, Will King, Caleigh Le Grand, Sid McMillan, Colin Price, Justin Reu, Julie C. Sheppard, & Austin Duffy as Abaddon!
Find out more about this film here, @TheHereticsFilm, and on Facebook here
Chad Archibald has been quite busy over the last few years whipping out one horror movie after another. Some of them have been successful descents into the darkness such as BITE and EJECTA, while others like THE DROWNSMAN failed to impress me. Archibald revisits some of the same territory he did with the excellent BITE while expanding his success rate by one in THE HERETICS, a tale of curses, cults, demons, dementia, and transformation.
Gloria (Nina Kiri) has had it pretty rough. She was kidnapped by a cult a while back and woke up covered in blood and surrounded by dead cultists in the middle of the woods and now is undergoing therapy to get over the horrific experience. But things are looking up as she has a good relationship with her girlfriend Joan (Jorja Cadence) who seems to love her deeply and she seems to have the support of her worried mother Ruth (Nina Richmond) as well. But the night before her one year anniversary with Joan, she is abducted again and taken to a cabin in the woods by a hulking brute named Thomas (THE DEMOLISHER’s Ry Barrett) who has ties to the cult who abducted her before. While Thomas thinks he is protecting her from the cult, her girlfriend Joan desperately searches for her—all the while, they all fail to notice that Gloria is changing.
As with BITE, THE HERETICS is a film about someone transforming into something else and the denial that the change is happening. With BITE, it felt more like a body horror metaphor for the health care situation with people being lax about what is happening to themselves and neglecting to go to the doctor when things are off with their bodies. But while body horror is a part of THE HERETICS, this one seems to be more about a person trying to deny what they truly are on the inside because of pressures of those around you. Gloria is a game piece being moved around by everyone in this film. Joan wants her for herself. Her mother Ruth wants to protect her from the world. Thomas wants to protect her as well, though he doesn’t really have her permission to do so. The cult wants Gloria because they feel she is the perfect host for a demon. Yet, despite everything that those around her are trying to do, nothing seems to stop Gloria from being who she really is and that’s a pretty powerful message underneath all of the abductions, cultists, and grody transformations.
Once again, as with BITE, THE HERETICS has some super strong horror designs and effects. The design for Abaddon, the demon who haunts the woods and darkness around Gloria and Thomas’ cabin is pretty powerful, but still manages to be done in mostly practical effects. I also love the earthy look of the cultists wearing mud-covered and bark masks and simple robes. Against the forested background, they look horrifying. The transformation Gloria is going through with bones jutting out of puss covered sores in her back are truly gag-inducing, as are the sores and contusions that seem to be forming all over Gloria as this film goes on. While it doesn’t quite reach the level of grossness of BITE, it comes close.
Across the board, there are some strong performances going on with THE HERETICS. The film is obviously made on a modest budget, but doesn’t look it as it keeps the action inside the cabin most of the time and reliant on the strong performances by Nina Kiri as the beleaguered Gloria, the mania of Jorja Cadence’s Joan and especially the conflicted yet surprisingly emotional performance by Ry Barrett as Thomas. All involved seem to have given their all to make the performances feel multi-dimensional. Archibald continues to shine as a director to watch out for as he delivers big scares on a modest budget. THE HERETICS proves that he can widen his scope to bigger endeavors while never missing the crucial human factor bereft in a lot of horror. THE HERETICS is viscerally potent and downright terrifying at times. It’s one definitely worth looking out for.