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The Independent Critic

Ciara Hanna, Emily O'Brien, Jackie Moore
James Cullen Bressack
James Cullen Bressack, Taryn Hillin
NR (Equiv. to "R")
90 Mins.
Benetone Films (USA)

 "Pernicious" Arrives in Theaters and On Demand on June 19th 

In James Cullen Bressack's award-winning indie horror flick Pernicious, three young, beautiful girls who arrive in Thailand for a summer of teaching and adventure. They aren't prepared for what greets them.

Alex (Ciara Hanna, Power Rangers), Julia (Emily O'Brien, Young and the Restless), and Rachel (Jackie Moore, 100 Ghost Street) begin having vivid bloody dreams that haunt their sleep, their friends go missing, and a stolen statue leads them down a path into Thai folklore. The real terror comes when the ladies discover it's not what is haunting them, but who is haunting them - an eight-year-old girl tortured and murdered years ago by her parents is back and bent on terrifying revenge.

Co-written and directed by James Cullen Bressack (My Pure Joy, 13/13/13), Pernicious won Best Director and Best Actress, for Hanna, at the Underground Monster Carnival earlier this year and has been a favorite at multiple other indie horror fests. The film has been picked up by indie distributor Benetone Films for a theatrical and On Demand release on June 19th and should no doubt please fans of indie horror.

As someone who reviews a lot of indie horror, with decidedly mixed results, I have to tell you that despite the fact that the film essentially violated my value system I had quite a bit of fun with it all. Ordinarily, a film involving violence toward a child or a film that planted the likelihood of sexual violence is one that I would shy away from. In the case of Pernicious, Bressack has created a film that is structured in such a way that its actual offensiveness is muted and it comes across as simply a mighty fine horror flick that has the balls to really go for it.

Pernicious starts off with a slow simmer, but it builds into the kind of film I used to watch on VHS and the good ole' early days of DVD. It's graphic in all the right ways, with special effects that are effective and convincing and lensing by Seo Mutarevic that is bold and in your face. Steven Bernstein's original music is also a stellar complement for the film and heightens the already heightened thrills and chills.

While some of the supporting performances are a little hit-and-miss, Pernicious's three leading ladies are all solid and Bressack makes terrific use of the film's actually having been shot in Thailand.

For the most part, I am unfamiliar with Bressack's work but came away from Pernicious already exploring his other films including Hate Crime, which seems to have garnered the most praise from among the films. Pernicious is that rare indie horror film that quickly makes you feel something about its characters, then tests your loyalty again and again. Not for the squeamish or timid, Pernicious is a haunting horror/thriller that will stay with you long after the closing credits have rolled and you're left alone in your dark and quiet house.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic