Review: Heretic / Cert: 18 / Director: Peter Handford / Screenplay: Peter Handford / Starring: Andrew Squires, Michael J. Tait, James Zakeri / Release Date: January 6th, 2014
Troubled Catholic priest (is there any other kind, in this post-Exorcist world?) Father James Pallister (Squires) suffers a crisis of faith when the girl he had promised to protect commits suicide. Following her death, the good Father returns to his old parish to confront his demons – both literal and not – only to find them confronting him, head on. Trapped in the very mansion where the girl ended her life, James is convinced that ghosts are out to get him. Also, the horny teenage girl who just won't take no for an answer. Poor James. Well, they do say that Catholic guilt can be killer.
Typified by atmospherics and (relatively) subtle spookery rather than blood 'n' guts or Sinister-style scares, Peter Handford's Heretic is an old-fashioned British horror, reminiscent of classier Hammer fare or a particularly well-made television movie. That sounds like rather faint praise, but it's a refreshing change of pace from the identikit found footage, slash/rape-ridden dross most studios (this film's distributors, 101 Films, included) seem to be churning out nowadays. It's a bit Emmerdale at times – but that's fine – we love a bit of Emmerdale. Dark, haunting and inventive, it would be heresy to give this one a miss on the basis of its low budget alone.
That slower pace and low budget will bother some, and while it does occasionally sail a little too close to cliché for comfort (so much so as to be called out on it by one of its characters), if you stick with it, there's an interesting story and some appropriately haunting visuals to be found. It could do with turning the lights on a bit more often, and some of the acting is a tad on the duff side, but Heretic is a low-budget British horror treat.