(director/writer: Bryan Bertino; cinematographer: Tristan Nyby; editors: William Boodell /Zachary Weintraub; music: Tom Schraeder; cast: Marin Ireland (Louise), Michael Abbott Jr. (Michael), Xander Berkeley (Priest), Lynn Andrews (Nurse), Julie Oliver-Touchstone (Mother), Tom Nowicki (Charlie), Ella Ballentine (Young Girl), Mel Cowan (Doctor), Mindy Raymond (Becky), Chris Doubek (Funeral Director), Michael Zagst (Father); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kevin Matusow/Adrienne Biddle/Sonny Mallhi/Bryan Bertino; Shotgun Shack Pictures; 2020)

“The chilling film sets an eerie mood that never relents.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An atmospheric rural horror pic written-directed by Bryan Bertino (“Mockingbird”/”The Strangers”). It’s a bleak tale about a farm family overwhelmed by otherworldly dark forces. The chilling film sets an eerie mood that never relents, as it gets over as a first-class psychological horror pic.

Two estranged adult siblings,
Louise (Marin Ireland, NYC stage actress) and her brother Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.), long absent from home, visit the isolated family sheep farm (actually Bertino’s own farm) in rural Texas to see their dying comatose father (Michael Zagst) and are confronted by a demonic phenomena. Since being sick for several years, he’s been nursed by their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone). She’s emotionally stressed-out and believes his illness has a demonic cause, which she notes in her diary. To counter that, their mom who has never been religious, has placed miniature crucifixes all over the house.

Also seen around the farm are the
handyman (Tom Nowicki); a religious nurse (Lynn Andrews); a mysterious young girl (Ella Ballentine), who says aloud “Do you smell him?”; and an oddball creepy priest (Xander Berkeley).

Their father’s condition worsens over a week, as the house is filled with somber death signs. Also Michael becomes affected psychologically and he begins to physically start deteriorating. The tension mounts, as we are influenced by a telling dissonant musical score, several jump scares and the deeply affecting performance by Marin Ireland.

It reminds us of The Relic, and is one of the better horror films released during the pandemic. Its special effects like the acting and its realistic frights are well-done, and its horror story is grounded in family issues that are filled with a dread worth pondering long after seeing the film.

      Dark and the Wicked

REVIEWED ON 11/10/2020  GRADE: B+