MOVIE REVIEW: PERNICIOUS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JAMES CULLEN BRESSACK / SCREENPLAY: JAMES CULLEN BRESSACK, TARYN HILLIN / STARRING: CIARA HANNA, EMILY O’BRIEN, JACKIE MOORE, BRYON GIBSON, RUSSELL GEOFFREY BANKS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19TH
A trio of American friends head over to Thailand to work as English teachers for the summer, staying a large house that’s full of old furniture, the centrepiece being a gold statue of a young girl. It’s not creepy enough to stop them going out to let their hair down in the local club. It’s here they meet three English chaps – who don’t at all look like they’re up to no good – and unwisely take them back to their place. Annoyed that the girls have no booze, one of them pops out a hipflask, and offers it around. As the room spins, it appears things get well and truly out of control. When they awake in the morning, the men – and most of the valuables from the house, including the statue – have gone. But what’s really freaky is each of the girls had a nightmare that they were in fact torturing the guys!
Although they lost their possessions, they become really worried about the statue, as it was clearly valuable and they don’t want to be accountable for its disappearance. As they try to find out where it came from, and hopefully track it down again, they uncover some horrific truths about the origin of the figure, and the strange old man living opposite who seems to be constantly watching them.
Writer/director James Cullen Bressack’s back catalogue has been a mixed bag of gritty, low budget indies to films for The Asylum, but he’s consistently shown a flair for his visuals and storytelling. Pernicious is arguably his most ambitious work, telling a quite tradition story, but infused with a style influenced in places from Korean and Chinese cinema (including several jump shocks that are directly lifted from some familiar classics). Which is not to say that it is derivative, as the atmosphere is built so well, that even though the shocks are clearly signposted, they still deliver the desired jumps. This is aided by the effective score by Steven Bernstein (probably best known for his work on cartoon such as Taz-Mania), who manages to underpin the tension perfectly.
The female leads are great, even when making clearly ridiculous decisions (where would horror cinema be without that, though?), and although it takes a while to warm to the characters, there is enough investment to when them to actually survive, which makes a nice change. As the title might suggest, the descent into violence is a gradual one, but manages to be all the more disturbing for it.
The film’s effects are, for the most part, of the practical variety, at least when it comes to the gore – which there’s plenty of, with some being particularly eye-popping, and squirm-inducing moments. However, it’s shot so well that even when CGI is used it isn’t laughably jarring as in some films.
Unfortunately, it’s perhaps not a ‘big’ enough picture to find a mainstream audience, which is a shame as it’s a lot more entertaining than some of the dross which fills the multiplexes, but it’s well worth tracking down when it’s finally released on VOD in the UK.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10