While many Western religions have practices of a dubious nature, none compare to those of Thailand, where a fetus is dry roasted and covered in gold. That is at the core of James Cullen Bressack’s new horror title, Pernicious. While the child in question is quite a bit older than a fetus, the necromancy surrounding it remains the same.
Pernicious starts with some really nice views of Thailand, as the trio of girls make their way to their home for the summer. Alex, Julia, and Rachel are in Thailand for the summer owing to a generic reason for being there. College scholarship to teach English to the locals, which is a nice trick as only one of them speaks Thai-barely. However, after taking a plane, train and boat to their residence, they settle in and explore the house. On the second floor they find a lot of furniture and antiques covered in sheets as clean as can be, until they stumble upon something hidden beneath a filthy sheet, with what looks like sigils written in blood. The take it off and see it’s a golden statue of a little girl.
They fuss over it a bit and then go downstairs to get unpacked and settled in. The next morning the girls decide that since their job doesn’t start for a few days, they’d check out the local nightlife. They meet a trio of men, who would look far more at home in Deliverance, than anywhere else, and after cajoling, the only one of them who has a boyfriend to talk to them, all of them end up back at the girls place. They continue to drink and one of the men pulls out a flask that the girls all sip from. Moments later they black out and have some truly disturbed dreams. Each of the girls sees themselves torturing and killing them men they brought home. Director James Cullen Bressack lays the gore on heavily here, though not to a gratuitous point. The effects are all practical and that really gives some of the bloodletting a raw, graphic look. In fact I’d say these are some of the best gore effects I’ve seen in quite a while.
When the girls get up the next day, hungover and recovering from being roofied, they discover that not only are the guys gone, but so is the statue. They all talk about having the same dream, and this is where Pernicious really kicks into high gear. That’s not to say the first 20 -30 minutes are slow, it’s not. Bressack really knows how to pace a film, and in lesser hands the setup could have had people looking at their watches.
What makes it so watchable, in addition to Bressack’s work is the acting from the three leads. All of them give a great performance, and the chemistry between them is palpable. Ciara Hanna, Jackie Moore, and Emily O’Brien are certainly not afraid to get down and dirty, and they seem to take particular delight in the torture scene. It’s obvious they’re having a great time and that makes you like their characters even more.
I could go on about the plot, but really in Pernicious half the fun is seeing what happens next, and I have to admit, even I was surprised a couple of times at the twists and turns the movie takes. Bressack, shows he’s as good a writer as he is a director, and there are no noticeable wtf moments. Their reactions and behavior aren’t the usual “let’s look in the basement alone without a flashlight after hearing a scream”, that is often evident in a lot of horror movies.
Pernicious is a throwback to the ‘80s gore movies, and that’s the highest compliment I can ever give a film. This isn’t surprising given Bressack’s love for them.
Pernicious will get a theatrical and VOD release on June 19th, and I urge you all to check it out.
I had a chance to talk with James after seeing a screener of Pernicious, and in the brief interview we cover a lot of topics including the special effects, the origins of the movie, ‘80s horror, and much more, so be sure to take a listen!