Overview: Three American women travel to Thailand to teach English to impoverished children, and instead encounter the vengeful spirit of a murdered child. Benetone Films; 2015; Not Rated; 90 minutes.
Pick A Genre: James Cullen Bressack’s Pernicious is not a good movie. It tries to be a handful of different movies in different genres and fails at each. By turns it is an Americans-on-tour movie, a Hostel-style torture-porn, a jumpy horror movie, a psychological horror movie, a cheesy horror movie, and a Grudge/Ring-style ghost story. Each part is undercooked and never finds its feet. The torture scenes are rote. It’s a sorry state of horror movie affairs when a character getting an eyeball cut out is a meh moment, which it is in this movie as we’ve seen it done before with the same gooey sound effects. The jumpy scenes are all telegraphed a mile away and are the usual mix of fake outs and reveals that the music tells us should make us jump a mile in the air. The plot of the ghost wanting revenge has been done and done, and done better.
What’s Good: Thailand refuses to be badly photographed. You can film empty streets on an overcast day and it still looks enticing. The filmmakers do well with their setting and have some cool shots of through the streets and into the jungle. We’re not sure how well this movie would play in Thailand, as having seen Thai horror films it doesn’t measure up. Thai horror movies have elements of gore and jumps but they lean heavily towards one or the other, rather than trying to have it both ways.
What’s Not So Good: The tone is all over the place. The characters don’t react realistically and there are no repercussions of earlier scenes. For example, two of the characters have experiences with the ghost and rather than fleeing the house they just sleep in a different room and the next morning wake up all smiles ready for the day. There is also this odd trend in the dialogue for characters to repeat things that we’ve just scene or to recap. There is even a scene where someone does this and another character sarcastically thanks her for the recap, even though it felt like fifty percent of the dialogue was people retelling events we had just seen. The three leads try their best with the material but are hemmed in by a script that does them no favours. There is a strange disconnect between what we see and what we’re supposed to see. The three characters are all unpleasant in different ways and come across as rude throughout. Its hard to tell if that’s supposed to be them being cool or if we’re supposed to dislike them, and then when the bad things happen are we meant to enjoy seeing these spoiled Americans get their just desserts. If that’s the case then the movie fails as the characters are unpleasant but they’re not so bad that you can’t wait to see them get what’s coming to them.
Overall: Hampered by long boring scenes, a meandering plot, clichés aplenty, and three uninspiring protagonists, Pernicious is only good if you’re looking for some bargain basement horror, but don’t settle for less when there’s plenty of other, better horror trash out there.