Director: Peter Handford
Writer: Peter Handford
Stars: Andrew Squires, Michael J. Tait, James Zakeri
There’s something inherently ridiculous about modern day horror movies featuring priests. I mean, priests are, well, they’re just a bit comical aren’t they? If there’s anything that smacks less of modernity and of the technological age than a priest it’s hard to think of it. They seem to belong to a more cosy age, a time when people went to church on Sundays rather than B&Q (or the pub), a land of Vicar of Dibley. Heretic is the latest priest-sploitation film to cross my path, a no-budget 2012 release which generated a number of plaudits among genre aficionados when it played on the festival circuit and was released on DVD.
Andrew Squires plays Father James Pallister, a Catholic priest who is wracked with guilt and goes of the boil when one of his parishioners commits suicide immediately after receiving confessional advice from him. In truth his hard-line views – the poor girl was advised against getting an abortion despite being pregnant with her father in law’s child – are rather inflexible; and they only become more so when his drinking increases and he begins to lose his faith. Haunted by visions of the dead girl he ends up passing out in her old, abandoned home and when he regains consciousness he finds himself locked in and under attack from someone or something outside.
OK, so Heretic never really manages to overcome its inherent implausibility – Pallister presides over an amazingly large congregation including several nubile young women despite it being in the middle of nowhere – but considering that it was made for a whopping £30k it’s quite an achievement. The acting is variable but Squires gives a good performance and technically belies its meagre budget. The last half hour or so, once the protagonist is locked in the dead girls house, is rather effective and makes up for some of the stilted build up. It’s not a great film, but it’s much better than it had any right to be.