As of late I’ve been reviewing a decent amount of independent films, and I think that goes for a lot of us who write for RC – as it is slowly becoming a place for independent filmmakers to have honest discussions and opinions expressed about their films in a professional environment, and I have to say I love the direction we’ve been heading recentlt. Last month it seemed I was strictly covering Independent horror, mostly of the exploitation calibre, and now this month I was given the opportunity to check out something entirely different altogether. Mercy. Mercy is a film that is going to take patience from the viewer, but if you’re open to a more avant garde cinematic experience – it definitely turns out to be quite the treat. As we are approaching Halloween (Oh no! This is for the November issue! I have breached the fourth wall!), it was good to actually watch a movie that was "scary", rather than just a bit of violence and some dark scenes. Mercy isn’t a "horror" film in the strictest sense, as I don’t see the film as something trying to stick itself into one particular genre or category, but there’s no denying just how frightening some scenes in the film can get. Things just get downright freaky. The director Patrick Roddy demonstrates a vast knowledge of the film language, and creates something that is at times truly chilling. Mainly due to the appearance of a certain ghost-like figure that haunts our lead character throughout the majority of the film; but nearly each and every appearance that this apparition has within the film sent chills up my spine. This man knows how to deliver "creepy" and he does it in spades.
So for those still wondering at this point just what the film is about, I might as well give some details. Really, the plot scenario I read before watching the film reminded me more of Straight Time than the actual disturbing, psychological and beautiful little film that I watched. No offense to Straight Time of course, just two totally different films. John Mercy is a convict released from prison for a crime we are never clear of. He is given an apartment, a job and a fairly shady new lease on life as a free man. His apartment is shared with the dregs of society, right across from a bar he is not supposed to drink from (no alcohol, as his Parole Officer informs him) and his job is fairly bleak as a machine operator in a dingy factory. Mercy keeps a positive attitude however, as all he wants is to be a free man and to start his life over. His Parole Officer doesn’t believe in him, neither does seemingly anyone else in his life – aside from a certain barfly across the street who John finds himself slowly growing infatuated with. With at least this possible blooming romance in the future, Mercy holds his head up high, but soon things start to decline after John begins having nightmares of a young girl who appears to have a slit throat. After one haunting nightmare, he awakens missing a tooth… and that’s only the beginning of what these nightmares have in store for him. Mercy is in search of something, but will he find it?
Making a black and white film in this day and age can produce one of two results, something cheaply made with no real sense of style to really set-off the choice of making a film in a somewhat archaic technology – or it can be something beautiful to look at, bringing about the true beauty that can be found if the film is controlled by the right group of people. On the independent scene, especially since Clerks was released, you generally expect more of the former than the latter, but Mercy definitely proves that wrong. With lush, wonderful cinematography; Mercy sets itself apart from the crowd right from jumpstreet. I knew I was in for something a bit more produced than my usual fare when I found the very polished looking promo ad-sheet in the package along with the DVD, as well as a mini-comic book detailing a bit of narration within the mind of our leading man. Then within the first few moments of the film, you can tell this was a feature made by a group of people with either a great deal of experience under their belt or a great deal of talent – possibly both. I can tell you though that Mercy is one detailed and beautifully lit film, complimenting the harrowing story of redemption gone sour.
So with all of that said, there’s not a whole lot I can think of to really criticize with Mercy, at times I think it could have been tightened up some – but really; it’s a film with a specific pace and a spcific atmosphere. Speeding it up would diminish what is there, so I can’t really complain. Mercy is a promising start from a filmmaker I hope has a lot of brilliant work ahead of him. His debut makes me think of a more linear and scientific Eraserhead, definitely a far more advanced film in terms of cinematic technology but equally as bleak and unnerving. It’s a haunting film that I really enjoyed and hope the very best for those who helped create it and bring it to life.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.patrickroddy.com.