THE PARISH starts off promising and could’ve veered in a unique direction. Unfortunately, the film settles into predictability and chooses to reside there. While not necessarily a negative, the subpar special effects inevitably harm it and leave the film between “meh” and “middling”. Still, there are beautiful parts of the film, particularly the score that gives it pockets of uniqueness.
THE PARISH is about a mother and daughter who relocate to a new home after the husband/father dies and they experience paranormal encounters tied to the daughter’s new school. The mother and daughter, Liz and Audrey respectively, are both haunted by the loss, but Liz struggles with it more. Throughout the film, she struggles with nightmares about her husband being killed while in the military overseas. Often she either has a wine glass in hand during the day and evening to cope, and medication at night. The film is about how loss can haunt an individual or family. Running from a loss doesn’t help because the pain resides within, yet Liz feels a new place will help. When she enrolls Audrey in the Catholic school, that’s when a more sinister haunting begins.
The acting is decent but some of the dialogue feels flat or too similar to dialogue from other films. It’s hard to make something more from mediocre lines. Because of this, the characters feel more flat and one-dimensional. Still, the acting by Angela DiMarco who plays Liz is good enough to keep the audience interested. She sells her grief, confusion, and anger well. Father Felix, played by Bill Oberst Jr., is also entertaining as the quiet, reserved but concerned pastor, trying to assist Liz through her grief. The directing and editing is okay at times, then feels strange at others, emphasizing something that doesn’t necessarily matter. It leaves the audience expecting a ghost, a jump scare, or something out of place, then leaves us wondering what was the point.
The relationship between Liz and the principal, Faye, is awkward. Mostly because the dialogue doesn’t hold up and the acting by the principal is too reserved. If you have a person claiming to see and speak to staff that does not currently exist, reacting as though you are discussing a poor grade isn’t the way to go.
The music by Catherine Joy is haunting and reminiscent of the score from Road To Perdition. There’s a sadness in the music that throbs within the viewer as the events and music play out. The music, combined with some flashbacks Liz has to times with her husband shows her past joy and current pain well. The music is the brightest part of the film, particularly the piano score. The score uplifts the film time and again, but isn’t always present enough to save the film.
By the final act, THE PARISH has downgraded because the effects don’t hold up and the drab dialogue becomes even more noticeable, particularly in the final fight. The arguing between Liz and Audrey doesn’t work because the acting from Sanae Loutsis—who plays Audrey— feels forced rather than genuine. There are also too many confusing questions as to whether the dead husband was really present and if so, why was he giving his wife, Liz, nightmares. If he is helping why is he upsetting his daughter to the point where she blames her mother for the move? Are there really any good ghosts, since it seems the father has ulterior motives himself?
Overall, THE PARISH has some positive qualities that stick out—the music and acting by Angela DiMarco particularly are wonderful. Despite falling around the middle regarding overall quality, the film is worth a viewing. Especially if you’re a fan of horror films or a fan of film scores.
THE PARISH arrives on Demand and DVD on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, from Uncork’d Entertainment.