Heretic Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
DVD released by 101 Films
Written and Directed by Peter Hanford
2014, 91 minutes, Rated 18
DVD Released on 6th January 2014
Andrew Squires as Father James Pallister
Jennifer Neeson as Claire Russell
Michael Tait as Tom Carlisle
James Zakeri as Father Tom O’Neil
Jodie McEnery as Melissa Sibley
Holly Fletcher as Suzie Thomas
Will Fox as Inspector Jack Myers
Fresh from Leeds, writer and director Peter Hanford and producer Bethany Clift have secured a January 2014 DVD and Blu-ray release for their creepy psychological British horror Heretic.
James Pallister, a priest of a small town parish, is shocked to find local girl Claire soaked in a bathtub after committing suicide. When her mother and stepfather claim that James knew Claire was suicidal and didn’t do anything to help, he begins to question his faith and flees town. But six months later James returns for the funeral of the parish’s Father Tom (James Zakeri), and it’s only a matter of time before he is ambushed with his troubled past and must battle with his turbulent soul once again.
For a low budget film, which was partially crowdfunded, Heretic is incredibly well constructed. From the outset, fade to black transitions and a chiming, tip-toeing score provoke a refreshingly dated feel, while its reoccurring string compositions enhance the depth of its dramatic peril. A plethora of dark imagery is both terrifying and inventive - an accumulation of supernatural spooks rather than jump scares – and its experimental camera work is a credit to its ability to draw you into its haunting ambience.
Unnecessarily though, the focus on James’ rekindling of relationships and the explanation of his disappearance comprises the first half of the running time, merely highlighting the all-round substandard theatrical acting. Lengthy dialogue-led scenes mean Hanford’s slow-burn approach soon becomes a little tiresome and clunky, and it takes a little while to move past it.
Still, once you’re there at 45 minutes in, the rest solely exists to entertain, terrify and keep you guessing. When Father James visits the former, now empty, home of Claire and becomes mysteriously locked inside its haunted lair, his tortured mind unravels into a series of revealing flashbacks as he begs out for a truth beyond his reach. It’s here where Squires starts to come into his own in what’s largely a solo performance, and it’s the poignant scenes that follow that send what was a controlled and safe plot spiralling into a compelling mystery with a string of possible outcomes. The tension is palpable and Hanford does well to keep up the momentum.
Blurring the lines between reality and illusion, addressing the modern day virtues of Catholicism, and questioning religious moral plight and judgement, Heretic is a complex, mind-bending thriller that keeps you hung by the neck until its shocking climax. The most chilling British feature since The Devils Business, here is to hoping Heretic will be the first of many good horrors to spawn out of 2014.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.