Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Paddy Murphy, The Perished is a socially-conscious new horror film that gets too tied up in its ideas to deliver much in the way of scares or even mild thrills. Even though the movie starts out extremely strong, it loses much of its momentum heading into a third act and culminating in an embarrassing finale.
The film tells the story of a young woman recovering from an abortion in an old house as she discovers that her refuge is in fact the site of a mass grave for unborn children looking to find a mother. While there is undeniably a lot of promise and ambition in this premise, Murphy ultimately relies on horror tropes a bit too much for the movie to have a particularly big impact.
For one, the pacing of the film is quite terrible. Believe it or not, the first forty-five or so minutes of the movie work surprisingly well as a low-budget form of character-driven gothic horror. Then, when Murphy tries (and fails) to have the film lean more heavily into the supernatural portion of the story, the movie loses any element of credibility it had.
Additionally, the film is very heavy-handed with its feminist themes. There are definitely some interesting arguments to be had, especially in the first act, but the movie doesn’t allow for any real discussion, instead shoving its message down the throat of viewers. As a result, the film’s potential to change minds is sadly limited.
The character development for the first half of the movie is solid, but as expected, this largely goes out the window in the more horror-oriented end. Any of the connections formed between the characters and the audience are broken by the obligatory poor decision-making that takes over in the later portion of the film.
For a B-movie, the acting in the movie is surprisingly decent. Although many of the players in the supporting cast go way too big, lead actress Courtney McKeon gives a relatively strong performance. This is definitely a very demanding role, particularly in the more emotionally-driven moments, and for the most part, she pulls it off.
On a technical level, the film is surprisingly strong given its low-budget nature. The production design and practical effects that create a majority of the atmosphere are very strong. Unsurprisingly, the production qualities decline as the movie progresses, and with it, the ability to take the film seriously.
Despite some really interesting ideas, The Perished is too boring to satisfy genre fans, and too reliant on cheap horror to work as a satisfying drama. Unfortunately, it’s one of the biggest wastes of potential of the year so far.
The Perished hits VOD on April 7.