I’ve been on a Netflix/HBO/Amazon Instant horror binge over the past few days, and have to say most of the movies I watched were ‘meh’ at best. It’s really hard finding horror movies that stand up to a viewing or repeated viewing without it becoming an instant classic. I wrote about ‘The Babadook’ last week, and that’s something that stands out to me as a modern classic.
I watched ‘Mercy‘ not expecting much. The cover art is a creepy kid sitting in the middle of some kind of ritualistic circle. Creepy kids and possession movies are a dime a dozen at this point. The only way it could hit the trifecta of current horror movie trends is if it was also found footage.
However, ‘Mercy’ was a surprisingly enjoyable watch.
‘Mercy’ is the story of a boy and his grandmother. It’s very loosely based on the Stephen King short story, “Gramma,” from his short story collection Skeleton Crew, and I mean loosely. The boy himself is socially awkward, and his only true friends are his grandmother, and his imaginary friend, ‘The Girl Next Door.’ His mother and older brother don’t understand him, and for most of his life his grandmother is kept somewhat at a distance.
The reason I like ‘Mercy’ so much is that it dips away from normal demon possession, and into a more Cthulhu Mythos and King in Yellow inspired Faustian bargain. Instead of the boy being possessed and creepy, he’s actually our protagonist, fighting to save himself and his family from a malevolent force that has been with the family for generations.
Now, the movie isn’t perfect. Some of the acting, especially by the kids, can be a bit grating at times. They are far better than most other kids in horror movies, but when pushed to an emotional limit their acting pales compared to the adult members of the cast. The older brother is a good actor in the film, but he can’t do ‘scared stiff’ in the slightest.
A bit of spoilers ahead.
The plot centers around the boy and his grandmother, Mercy. She clearly dabbles in the arcane as she tries to impart wisdom of the supernatural to her grandson in ways he doesn’t understand. She takes him to a relatives grave and seemingly summons her spirit as a rattlesnake, leaving the boy to stand up for himself and prove himself worthy to his ancestors.
We find out along the way that although his grandmother has been nice to him his whole life, he’s special. Everyone else in the family has been treated with disdain and contempt. Still, they repeatedly visit with her, and see her for holidays until she seemingly suffers a stroke. This leaves her physically and mentally impaired, but also to strange happenings around her and her home. As such, her grandson embarks on a search through the family’s history to find out what’s really going on.
I liked this movie a fair amount, but what prevents me from giving it a higher score is the conflict between portions of the plot. There are times when a character is treated as a necessary sacrifice, yet others where they are to be kept alive for a vessel for possession. It’s not clear exactly which is which, and instead of making the film mysterious to the evil entity’s motive, it left me confused as to whether or not the director and writer even knew what the full end game was.
In addition, a lot of violence and death surround the grandmother during her coma, and all the characters play off everything as accidents or parts of her condition. The fact that she won’t speak with a priest and is repelled by the sign of the cross is mentioned, but kind of left for a small portion of the film where it won’t interfere with the plot by introducing the entire family to the supernatural force at once.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a decent supernatural force horror movie, I’d say check out ‘Mercy.’ It can be found on Netflix streaming, or Amazon Instant. It’s not ground breaking, but it’s still fun.
I give ‘Mercy’ 3.5 flaming skull .gif’s out of 5.