(director/writer: Jenn Wexler; screenwriter: Sean Redlitz; cinematographer: Alexandre Bussiere; editors: Mathieu Berube, Arthur Tarnowski; music: Mario Sevigny; cast: Mena Massoud (Jude), Olivia Scott Welch (Maisie), Georgia Acken (Clara), Chloe Levine (Rose), Madison Baines (Samantha), Laurent Pitre (Doug), Derek Johns (Grant), Otis Kenworthy (Jimmy); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Heather Buckley, Todd Slater, Philip Kalin-Hajdu, Albert I. Melamed; Shudder; 2023)

“It raises more than a little hell.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jenn Wexler (“The Ranger”) is a prolific producer who has directed her second film, after her smash hit in her debut. It’s an ambitious horror pic that she co-writes with Sean Redlitz. 

It’s set in 1971 at Blackvale, an isolated Catholic girls’ boarding school. At the winter break, most of the students go home to be with their families. But the students Samantha (Madison Baines) and Clara (Georgia Acken), a new student and a loner, remain on the campus, along with the young teacher Rose (Chloë Levine)) and her boyfriend Jimmy (Otis Kenworthy).

There are news reports of vicious stabbings across the state, and the 4 crazed killers, a Charles Manson-like Satanic cult, on a crime spree, have come onto the school grounds on Christmas Eve. This evil bunch aims to summon a demon by sacrificing a virgin in a demonic ritual. Their cocky leader Jude (Mena Massoud) struts when he walks because he’s a bad dude with a big ego. The three other cult members include Jude’s pushy evil gf Maisie (Olivia Scott Welch), the chatty Doug (Laurent Pitre), and the giant homicidal Vietnam vet Grant (Derek Johns).

The marauding killers grab the two coeds and torment them, and hold the two adults as prey.

It’s a tense, twisty and frightening film that leads to a chilling bloody last act.

The well-crafted and well-acted horror pic lets things rip, as it adds its special touches to the genre making it special.

By the time it concludes, it raises more than a little hell.

It played at the Fantasia (International) Film Fest.

REVIEWED ON 11/29/2023  GRADE: A-