A strong finish makes up for a lackadaisical first half

by Martin Hafer

In many ways, Pernicious isn’t a strong film. However, the promise shown by Director James Cullen Bressack prevents me from simply being dismissive, and the young filmmaker also demonstrates real potential. With a bit more care and a rewrite or two, Pernicious could’ve been a far better horror story.

The film is about three smokin’ hot women who inexplicably land in Thailand to work with underprivileged children. I say inexplicably because the three look and act just like they are in a Spring Break sex romp and show many of the classic stereotypes. True to the types, they are mostly concerned with getting drunk and getting laid, … which makes the entire working to teach poor children angle totally laughable. Had the film simply had them be three hot and terribly spoiled ladies (which they were) but without the silly teaching aspect, it sure would have made a lot more sense. As it was, this is how the movie started and I was immediately turned off.

Directed by
James Cullen Bressack
Ciara Hanna, Emily O’Brien, Jackie Moore
Release Date
19 June 2015
Martin’s Grade: C-

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What came next was also pretty poor. The three girls pick up three obviously sleazy guys, and what follows is just god-awful and horrific. The ladies torture then murder the men. This alone is not the problem as it worked with the plot that followed. But the scenes were often way too vivid and just plain nasty for my tastes. I don’t enjoy seeing folks’ teeth getting chiseled out nor their eyes shoved into their mouths! Call me a prude, but at the very least, this sort of thing sure seems to lack subtlety.

Had I not been asked by our editor to review the film, I’m sure I would have stopped watching long before all this. Amazingly, though, despite thoroughly disliking the film as the gruesome torture-murders were occurring, the last half actually shocked me more, because it turned out to be quite good. The sense of horror and foreboding in the film was excellent, and the backstory about the Kumari* was original. I almost wish they had redone parts of the first half before releasing it — making the ladies just stupid and vacuous instead of social workers, as well as cutting a few of the more revolting torture scenes out. It wasn’t even because all the killing was that believable — it just felt gratuitous — especially when the film otherwise did a great job of setting the mood.

*The Kumari is a real sort of thing from Buddhism but is from Nepal and doesn’t involve murder and gore.