It was supposed to be an adventure of a lifetime as three young girls spend the summer in Thailand. But their adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when the trio unleashes the spirit of a murdered child with only one thing on her mind – revenge.
Hell’s belles and buckets of blood…
Ditching film school after all of one week and being quite the loafer that he is, 23 years young James Cullen Bressack finally got round to directing his eleventh feature Limelight this week. Evidently I’m jesting and words can’t even begin to emphasise how this burgeoning young writer/director is THE epitome of inspiration for any budding filmmaker. His passion is more than evident in every project and such a prolific work ethic is pretty much unparalleled in this day and age. Some might say, “Yeah, but it’s all about quality, not quantity!” and normally that’s a fair point but I’ve yet to see Cullen Bressack put something duff out there. So how does his upcoming release, Pernicious, compare to his already extensive track record?
Well, prepare yourselves for buckets of blood as the three disgustingly talented actresses Ciara Hanna, Emily O’Brien and Jackie Moore head out to Thailand to teach. They certainly do end up teaching people, but not the types of lessons you might have expected.
For me, most American remakes of Japanese movies have all been weak tea compared to the originals, mainly because they never really managed to capture that certain special creepy J-horror atmosphere. Whilst Pernicious is no remake, the trailer certainly summoned up some flashbacks of a particularly famous scene from Ju-On so I wasn’t entirely convinced going into this one.
Ultimately though, whilst Cullen Bressack doesn’t quite cultivate any particularly effective scares when the golden girl crops up, his decision to mix things up with Jerami Cruise’s no holds barred effects won me over in an instant. Steering well clear of spoilers, suffice it to say that the innocent looking little girl, Vanida, has one seriously tormented mind and her imagination runs wild in the most satisfyingly gruesome of ways.
Although predominantly shot in a virtually isolated house, Thailand’s beauty and personality are ever-present, giving the whole thing a decidedly J-horror aesthetic. This in turn makes Pernicious feel all the more authentic, particularly when the story ventures into local folklore territory as the trio of tourists unintentionally unleash the spirit of a murdered child in a golden statue known as the Kumari. As I said, all three leads are superb, particularly when they flick their switches to evil mode although, sadly, their performances are somewhat undermined by the odd wooden supporting cast member. Having said that, particular kudos to Cullen Bressack for casting Irada Hoyos as little Vanida who has this really unique innocent yet completely unnerving look about her all at the same time and she added so much more creep value to the film than the golden statue itself.
Ultimately, whilst Pernicious is certainly an unusual fusion of Japanese supernatural yarns and torture porn with the roles reversed, it’s precisely this risky recipe that keeps Pernicious as palatable as it is. Anyone with a penchant for supernatural shockers or gruesome gore will certainly approve of Cullen Bressack’s latest creation, and if you just so happen to dig both of the aforementioned sub-genres then you’ll most likely have a field day with this one.
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)