With exceptional effects, a smart script, and highly capable direction, “The Heretics” is a compelling indie horror film deserving of your time.
The Heretics, directed by Chad Archibald (Bite), follows the story of a young woman named Gloria (Nina Kiri) as she attempts to re-build her life following a kidnapping and grizzly ritual at the hands of a mysterious cult.
Ry Barrett (The Demolisher, If a Tree Falls) excels in the role of Thomas, the only surviving member of the aforementioned cult. It is when his path once again crosses with that of Gloria that the story really kicks in to gear. From the outset, we’re teasingly granted nightmare-like flashbacks via dream sequences about exactly what happened on the night of this disturbing, folk horror-esque ritual.
The intrigue created by these brilliant set pieces sets the tone for the remainder of the film – part mystery, part horror, part character-driven drama.
Gloria is in a relationship with Joan (Jorja Cadence). Both young women work at a soup kitchen, and Gloria lives with her mother, who isn’t wholly approving of Gloria’s lifestyle. The couple are obviously in love. Though the two — Gloria, with her fear of people, and Joan, with a backstory that includes domestic abuse – apparently aren’t quite ready to abandon the trappings and comforts of modern life in order to build an entirely new one.
When Gloria is snatched from outside her home once more, and awakes in an old van which is driving towards the backwoods, we are introduced slowly to the character of Thomas, who proceeds to keep her locked up in his log cabin in the middle of nowhere. She manages to make a brief call home on her cell phone, alerting her mother to the fact that she’s once again being taken prisoner. But she is unable to relay her location (or details about the assailant) on the garbled voicemail she leaves.
But what are Thomas’ motives? Throughout the second act, he gradually introduces himself as the sole survivor of the cult who previously kidnapped Gloria. As the story progresses, we begin to learn what they wanted with her in the first place – and why they need her back again now.
The story is neatly intercut with the frantic search campaign that Gloria’s mother and girlfriend instigate. As they bear nearer to finding her (and possibly saving her), the tension is tightened like a screw back at the log cabin. Despite the police officers’ best intentions, the search appears as if it might be frivolous – until, as an audience, we begin to understand why Gloria was taken the first time.
Towards the conclusion of the film, a supernatural presence, which you can feel bleeding into the story throughout the build-up, is manifested. And the clever final reel left me satisfied that what I had just watched was a tidy mash-up of different sub-genres, cleverly pieced together to forge an entertaining movie.
While one or two of the performances don’t quite hit the mark in terms of believability, the overall trajectory that the film takes makes up for it with a clever script and subtle direction.
The makeup and SFX are both excellent, and I enjoyed Steph Copeland’s score which ties the elements all together nicely. Ultimately, there’s a lot to enjoy about this indie horror flick, and I recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of folk horror and the supernatural combining with well written character drama.