Director – Peter Handford 94 minutes
Starring – Andrew Squires, Michael J. Tait, James Zakeri.
UK Distribution – 101 Films
UK Release BluRay & DVD 6th January 2014
Father James Pallister (Andrew Squires) is a Catholic priest in a small community. He visits a local families house only to find their 15 year-old daughter upstairs in the bathtub with her wrists slit and she dies in his arms. After a chat with the police and another priest Father James leaves the house , nut not before the girls stepfather berates him for not caring about their problems and turning his back on them.
Six months later James returns to his now old parish , which he hasn’t returned to since that fateful day. But the return is due to the funeral of Tom (Michael J. Tait) who was the girls stepfather , he has hung himself as he could not cope with the guilt of his stepdaughters death. Both had been to see Father James in the confessional prior to their deaths , but what was said and why is Father James so troubled?
James meets with his good friend and now new priest of the parish Father Will O’Neill (James Zakeri) in a local pub, but this soon turns to an argument as Will quizzes James as to his whereabouts for the last 6 months. When Will storms from the pub James (drunkenly) decides to visit the now abandoned house of Tom and stay there for the night. Upon arrival James finds it still full of all the families belongings (apparently the mother just abandoned the house in grief) and he crawls up to the daughters bedroom where he falls asleep.
After a fitful sleep with nightmares James awakes to find that he can’t leave the house as the door is locked and all the windows are boarded up, but downstairs he runs into the local police inspector . The two get in a very heated argument when the Inspector reveals he believes Tom was murdered and did not kill himself. Mid argument there is a sudden loud bang at the front door, when the Inspector goes outside to investigate the door slams shut behind him leaving James again trapped in the house. There is a scream from outside and then a hand starts to post what is seemingly the police inspectors internal organs through the letterbox.
Is the inspector dead and why is Father James trapped in the house with no way of escape?
Above all genres in horror , the one that means most to me is religious horror. I have a deep love for any films with religious themes. From my early horror memories with films like The Exorcist and The Omen right through to 2013’s The Borderlands , there is just something about religion (especially Roman Catholicism) in horror that deeply resonates with me , and above all I just love the iconography and history of the Catholic Church. Maybe this all comes from a time when my bedroom window overlooked the local church and cemetery and I would gaze for hours from said window and fill myself with fear of the unknown figures in the darkness.
So Heretic is an independent UK horror film from debut director Peter Handford and it was made with a budget of just £30,000. This is a very ambitious film as the strength of the film relies on two things , the acting and the script. Now both are way above average for your typical low budget horror and what Heretic shows is that with some thought , a decent story and a good script then you really can make a great horror film.
And that is what Heretic is a great British horror film. Andrew Squires is masterful in the lead role of a Catholic Priest who is deeply troubled and struggling to find his way back to god. And praise must also go to writer and director Peter Handford who has a lovely slow-burn approach to the film and deals with the subject matter quite beautifully at times.
Heretic is by no means perfect , it could have been 15 minutes shorter and in the middle of the film it is at a bit lost and clunky , with a little bit too much going on at times. But all in all Heretic is a superb new British horror that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It has a subtle mix of religion, horror and mania that brings something new to the currently flourishing UK Horror Scene (see what I did there) 8/10