Showing Very Little Mercy
Fifteen years ago, a pair of adolescent girls lured another adolescent girl to the woods to perform a ritual sacrifice in order to conjure up a supernatural entity named Mercy Black, an entity that is either the creation of their own twisted minds or something that actually lives and is just waiting to be reborn. Fifteen years later, one of the girls involved in the attempted murder is finally being released from custody, having spent the time in therapy, learning to cope with and understand just what happened. She is still a wreck, but mostly because she has no real memory of the event, just sporadic nightmares/flashbacks that make little sense to her. Now she is back in the real world, gone to live with her sister and young nephew, and she learns that a certain segment of society has turned the event she was involved with into an urban myth. Others have attempted to conjure Mercy Black in similar ways. But now that she’s back, her nephew is acting funny, and weird things start happening, and could it be that Mercy Black wasn’t really just a figment of her imagination after all?
Mercy Black is a new horror film that takes obvious cues from the real-life case of the two girls who tried to conjure the Slender Man by sacrificing a fellow student.
Despite what might be considered unsavory, this layer of reality actually lends to the charm of the movie. It’s mainstream, yes, but director/writer Owen Egerton imbues his film with a rich atmosphere and characters you can actually care about. This is a rare thing in this kind of movie, what I would call a “Hollywood Horror Film.” Mostly films like this rely upon tropes and stereotypes as they cynically plug in bodies to be murdered, and they follow along with the pulse and beats of any number of mainstream thrillers. Mercy Black mostly follows this formula: lots of jump scares, plenty of red herrings, and surface-level tension. But it digs under the skin just a bit more. It’s in the characters and the performances, as Egerton serves up plenty of interesting dialogue and the actors, like lead Daniella Pineda (who is marvelous in this, at once vulnerable and afraid and yet resilient and tough) really step up and make you care about what’s happening to them. Yeah, the plot gets a bit muddled, and yeah, there’s some shenanigans that might stretch your belief tolerance, but you kind of end up not caring because you’re happily along for the ride.
This is definitely a slick thriller, with lots of jumps and scares, that never really climbs up into masterpiece territory, but it also isn’t a waste of time. It’s a good, solid little movie that I think most people, especially fans of movies that aren’t too weird and gory but want a good scare, will enjoy. To put it in baseball terms: this ain’t a home run, but it’s a ground-rule double, and that’s something most fans won’t sneer at.
Mercy Black is (as of this writing) streaming on Netflix.
Two and a Half Stars out of Four