Pernicious tells the story of three attractive women who venture out to Thailand in order to teach English to young children. However education doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of their minds because as soon as they have moved into their somewhat creepy new home all they can do is drink, flirt and disrespect local customs. One morning they discover that the lifesize golden statue of a little girl has disappeared from their home. Fearing a robbery they begin to investigate and gradually learn that the statue may trace its roots back to a horrific and bloodstained incident in the past. That it may not have been stolen, but that instead it might just have walked away of its own accord….
Now as you may have guessed Pernicious is not the most revolutionary genre piece to have come out in recent times. It’s use of creepy little girls, possession and bloody violence all proudly wear their various influences on their sleeves, not trying to hide the fact that they are recycled rather than reimagined horror tropes. I can accept that in a film which is meant as nothing more than a piece of lightweight fluff, a B-movie horror that aims to scare and gross you out with its violence. The problem here is that many of Pernicious‘ scares fall flat. Whilst it can build an atmosphere leading up to each scare pretty well, the resulting ‘boo’ moment is hit and miss between actually being frightening and just being unintentionally funny. Where the film does succeed is in the gore department. There is little restraint when it comes to the torture on display here, so if eyeballs being ripped out is your sort of thing, you’re going to enjoy a fair bit of this movie.
What really helps this film along is the three lead actresses. Ciara Hanna, Emily O’Brien and Jackie Moore are largely responsible for turning what otherwise could have just been a predictable, blood soaked B-movie into one which you can actually get somewhat invested in. All three of them have unlikeable characters to work with; they play typical horror movie American women who regularly disrespect and misrepresent foreign cultures, but regardless they manage to get us on board with their plight and we believe they are scared when they want us to, and we feel bad for them when things start to turn ugly. What also really helps raise the bar on this film is Seo Mutarevic’s cinematography. Because of his work the film doesn’t look at all like a budget indie and excellent use is made of the beautiful Thai landscapes giving Pernicious a Hollywood feel.
Despite the film promoting that persistent belief in horror films that foreigners in the East are all mysterious and dangerous people who practice the dark arts and loathe everyone with an American accent, Pernicious manages to be an entertaining movie. It’s silly, bloody and the story is the stuff of pure B-movie territory, but if that’s what you’re looking for then you can do a lot worse than this. With talented actresses, plenty of convincing gore and enough jump scares that work to keep you going this is a good one to sit down to with a bunch of friends and plenty of popcorn.
What is the film’s greatest strength? The three lead actresses.
Its greatest weakness? It’s just a little too predictable and not all of its scares work.
Would I see it again? I did have fun but I think once was enough.
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