LA Film Fest Review: "Mercy"

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“Mercy”, the latest film from director Chris Sparling, gives us a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the human condition, while shining a light on the consequences that greed, mistrust, and secrets can have within a family.  The film focuses on four estranged brothers who return home to say goodbye to their dying mother.  As tensions rise, long kept secrets are revealed, and what was supposed to be an evening of loving goodbye’s turns into a deadly night of survival.  The film stars James Wolk (The Stanford Prison Experiment), Tom Lipinski (Youth), Michael Godere (Loitering with Intent), Michael Donovan (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex).  

What I loved about this film was it took the angle of religious fanatics and combined it with the fear and tension of one of my favorite horror movies, “The Strangers.”  Though home invasions and religious fanaticism is nothing new in the horror genre, I liked the approach that Chris Sparling took.  We so often see only one side of the story in horror films that it was almost refreshing to view both sides.  I’m not saying that murder is justifiable in this case, but it intrigued me to learn why these people were doing what they were doing.  I think another important aspect to point out is none of the characters were inherently good or evil.  The ones that you would categorize as “victims” struggled with more demons than those who you would categorize as “villains.”  I think by doing this, Chris Sparling made each character more humanized.  

What sets “Mercy” apart from other horror thrillers is that it doesn’t need to rely on much to be effective.  The story was simple but underneath the surface the movie dealt with heavier themes such as loss, greed, suspicion, murder, religion, and loyalty.  There also wasn’t an over abundance of gore but just enough to keep the viewer entertained and only inserted when absolutely necessary and justifiable.  Lastly, the atmosphere of “Mercy” was one of hopelessness and isolation.  The film is set in the middle of nowhere, within a house, surrounded by woods and no neighbors to see of.  Everything takes place primarily in the evening so while watching the film you feel enveloped by the darkness.  

Overall, “Mercy” was a film that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I liked not knowing what was happening until each piece of the puzzle was revealed.  This allowed the tension to creep in early as you waited to find out what the secrets were.  The acting was superb and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the story and the eventual fates of each of the characters.  “Mercy” is a taut thriller that shows how easy it is for loyalty to be tested and broken as well as the extent people are willing to go for what they believe is theirs.  As of right now, there is no release date but keep your eyes on the lookout for when “Mercy” becomes available.  This is a film not to be missed.