Director – Peter Cornwell
Cast – Chandler Riggs, Dylan McDermott, Frances O’Connor, Mark Duplass, Joel Courtney, Hana Hayes, Chris Browning, Shirley Knight
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have been under the influence of the supernatural bug lately and decided to give the fairly new Mercy a shot. Going into the film I did not know that it starred Chandler Riggs (of The Walking Dead fame) nor Dylan McDermott (of American Horror Story fame) as a supporting actor, so that was…”cool”. Anyway, for whatever reason (I guess my desire for a good spook) I went into this effort expecting an enjoyable outcome and was left underwhelmed. Mercy gets a few things right, but it never seems to find itself and is an unfocused mess in the end.
When his beloved grandmother falls ill, George (Chandler Riggs), his brother, and their single mother must now care for her and bear witness to the supernatural entity she has been harboring for decades.
The story starts off with a flashback of a significant event that will come to light at the end of the film. Then it settles into the plot where George and his brother are forced to join their mother in caring for their grandmother. Things turn awry about 8 minutes in when she begins to suffer some mental defects. George has always been close to her, so he is hit the hardest by this. While his family is trying to cope and deal with their new dilemma, George’s struggle to keep life for his grandmother as easy as possible is proving to be a futile effort as her condition worsens. Her condition is not naturally occurring though, despite her old age. There is some supernatural stuff going on, with the grandmother speaking in demonic tones at times, and it is obvious that a supernatural force is passing information to George for reasons yet to be known. It takes a really long time for the horror to develop, aside from his grandmother being in a terrible mental and physical state. When the horror finally does manifest itself it is not very good. We see a little demon action but it never hits hard. The horror felt cheap, generic, and was never the least bit scary. With such subtle horror you would hope that the rest of the story made up for it (although a horror film with cheap horror is doomed to fail), but that was not the case. I did not like that the story’s locations were timid and sub-par, with most of the film taking place within basic indoor settings. While not a requirement, a poorly executed story benefits from movement, but that simply did not happen. They never leave into the woods or anywhere else, there is no “chase” and the horror stays concentrated in one area. The horror is not the only sub-par element of the story – the characters were poorly written as well. Not once did I care for George and the struggle he faced trying to make the best of his grandmother’s dire situation, and poor writing execution is to blame for that. I also mentioned that Dylan McDermott has a supporting role in the film, but his role was hardly “support” – it was a waste of a character who did little to move the story.
The direction from Peter Cornwell was OK, but it did not save the effort. Cornwell provided decent atmosphere during the indoor scenes, which were gloomy and appropriate for such a gritty supernatural tale. He gets decent performances from his actors, with Sherley Knight stealing the show as Mercy. Her character was put through a lot emotionally, mentally, and physically, and Knight handled the roller coaster well. Chandler Riggs was basic and nowhere near as good as he is on The Walking Dead, while Dylan McDermott was…Dylan McDermott. The execution of the horror was where the direction ultimately failed, giving us few scares and some crappy CGI during a wasted third act.
Overall, Mercy is a mediocre experience that I would not recommend to anyone. If you are curious to see Chandler Riggs and Dylan McDermott in a film then I understand that, but keep in mind that they will be poorly used.