This is a very Wicker Man-esque horror film, with a much bigger touch of the supernatural and a 28 Days Later feel to its final act. But aside from the “religious cult on an island in the British Isles” sense of deja vu, there is a lot to like about the movies, though I ended up not actually liking it. In order to discuss this, there will, of course, be SPOILERS.
Though this is one of those islands which seems really, really large – and it wasn’t actually filmed on an island – there is a really nice sense of place, and a sort of sense of a land out of time. (Until a flashback in the movie, it is sort of hard to tell when in the 18th century we are.) The actors are all excellent and it’s always a pleasure to watch a horror film where the cast is excellent. (As anyone who has watched a lot of horror knows, most horror movies don’t have great acting.) And the film is really well shot and it’s clear there is talent behind the film. I liked the idea of the film – similarities to The Wicker Man aside – I liked the look of the film and I liked the cast. Also, the film didn’t treat us like idiots, and kept a lot of things implicit instead of totally spelled out. So what didn’t I like?
Well, the plot, or, specifically, how the plot was told. I found two things really didn’t work for me at all: the evil at the heart of the mystery and the heel turn of Quinn.
So, about that mystery. It’s revealed to us too soon for a movie of this length. And it’s not so much Her as it is her henchman who, as Jenn pointed out, is essentially a caricature of a henchman from a horror movie. We can both imagine this movie without The Grinder specifically and we can actually imagine a better version of the film with his role subsumed into the role of the other main bad guy. But anyway, we see the bad stuff too soon and it’s just not creepy enough. The mystery would have been better less explicit, like the rest of the film around it.
The other issue for me is how Quinn goes from faithful aide to crazy dictator seemingly in an instant. The film attempts to show that he is more ruthless than his brothers but it doesn’t do a good enough job. When he snaps, it doesn’t feel earned. Worse, the village’s obedience to the now totally crazy Quinn feels completely crazy. It just doesn’t feel believable.
You know what would have worked? if Quinn had to feed Her for all these years and was extremely resentful, and perhaps driven crazy by it.
I liked a lot about this movie, I just don’t think it was good.