Kids today can be more viscous than you might expect. They’ve become desensitized to violence and sex, and some even participate in very-adult activities without fear of consequences. People may argue that children inherit those bad behaviors, while others believe a person’s behavior and mentality are learned by their environment and personal relationships. The psychological horror Almost Mercy brilliantly examines the question of nature vs nurture, and showcases the effects of abuse and trauma on the human psyche over a long period of time.
Almost Mercy, available on VOD May 26th, studies Emily and Jackson, two young friends who have been broken down by the cruel society around them. Guided by the captivating voice of Emily (played by newcomer Danielle Guldin), the viewer is taken on a tour through the pair’s past and present, showing us glimpses into their disturbing lives at the most crucial and influential moments. We see their moments of pain, grief, and abuse which shape them into the individuals that they become as adults. The abuse and heartache leads one of the friends to reach their breaking point, and react in the only way in which they know how: By inflicting a relentless amount of pain onto their abusers.
While Almost Mercy sounds like a straightforward revenge film, it’s a lot more than that. The movie acts as a commentary on society and questions social norms pertaining to sex, forcing the viewer to ask if they truly know the people around them. The film helps one realize that people are f**ked up, and they liked to do some f**ked up things. Almost Mercy unravels the dark secrets that lie within each of us, and forces the viewer to face the horrors of reality head-on.Writer-Director Tom DeNucci handles the film’s topics of abuse with an appropriate level of delicacy, never showing us too much of something or making the film feel exploitative. The acts in the film are carried out in a way that alludes to what’s happening, which helps the audience build a level of empathy for the characters without being overwhelmed with an overabundance of unnecessary images. A great, perfectly-timed soundtrack and practical special-effects helps to enhance those important moments in the film as well.
Along with a great soundtrack and level of care toward taboo subject matter, Almost Mercy has characters that the viewer can identify with on many different levels. The characters feel real and gritty, and the performances by the cast help to make the experience feel more like we’re watching actual people living out their lives, rather than actors playing a character.
The character of Emily is a very strong female who never asks for pity or shows defeat in the face of her adversaries. And while one would expect her years of torment to weaken her and make her timid, Emily’s experience turned her into a fighter unafraid to back down or give into what society asks of her.
Actress Danielle Guldin kills it in the role of Emily. I have no doubt that the viewer will fall hard for her unmistakable beauty, and overpowering confidence that seeps through her performance, which makes Emily feel like she’s coming out of your screens and punching you in the face. On the surface, she is approachable and you can’t help but root for her; but as you peel back her layers you find yourself slightly afraid of her and what she might do to you.
Along with Emily are supporting characters like Pastor Johnson (Bill Moseley) and Coach Griffon, played hilariously by Kane Hodder. Hodder takes a refreshing turn as a trying-too-hard-to-be-hip gym teacher and football coach, spewing comical one-liners and monologues with deadpan delivery. He’s awkward, both physically and socially, but he doesn’t know that he is; he thinks that he’s still the hottest guy in town, still living off of his football glory days of high school. He’s that guy, and Hodder plays him to a tee. Hodder’s acting chops are on full display in Almost Mercy, and his performance will make you hungry for more.
Almost Mercy is a raw and disturbing look into the lives of two troubled teens victimized by their peers. The film handles delicate subject matter and difficult scenes smoothly, while simultaneously pushing the envelope at the right moments. Lead actress Danielle Guldin gives a performance that is sure to lock her in place with horror’s elite scream queens, and her character is sure to become a horror favorite. Almost Mercy is well worth a watch when it releases on VOD May 26.
WICKED RATING: 8/10 [usr 8]
Director(s): Tom DeNucci
Writer(s): Tom DeNucci, B. Dolan
Stars: Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Danielle Guldin
Studio/ Production Co: Woodhaven Productions, Magna Entertainment
Budget: $150,000 (estimated)
Length: 84 minutes