Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Castle Rock Companion - Mercy

This is technically the second post covering the short story "Gramma," which was previously adapted into a new Twilight Zone episode.  If you missed that post, read it here.
As I mentioned there, Mercy had been filmed but shelved by the studio for a while, and was finally quietly released via On Demand and DVD earlier this month.  Given the nature of the release I was not expecting too much, but as a fan of The Walking Dead I was also hopeful that Chandler Riggs might also make this a film worth watching.

Straight off the bat, the movie both shows us that it's making some changes to the original short story and gives us an idea of the type of horror we're in for.  While in the story it is said that young George's grandfather lived to a decent age and kept working up until a heart attack killed him, here we see Mercy (the given name for the grandma) cradling a baby and speaking softly to it while her husband walks up behind her with an axe in hand.  While you initially think he's going after them, he in fact turns the axe around and plants it straight into his own forehead.  If you somehow weren't paying attention, don't worry, there will be flashbacks to it multiple times for the rest of the film.

So while the grandma of the story had nine children before stopping, here she only gives birth once to triplets, and gets her reputation of doing dealings with demons pretty much right away.The other major change is that George has pleasant memories of his grandmother, calling her his best friend growing up.  She eventually becomes sick, has to live in a home for a year (the R. L. Flag home for the elderly in fact) and only returns home because she is dying and the home will no longer care for her.  It is established pretty early on that the demon is overtaking her body and this is the cause for all the odd things going on.

While this introduces some changes, it doesn't really hurt the story.  What we see in the original is really only enough to fill up approximately half an hour's worth of screen time, so making George's older brother Buddy a foodie who loves to cook is a strange but okay addition.  Dylan McDermott's role as a childhood friend of their mother who clearly cares for her tries to make the plot more in depth, but in reality largely just fizzles out toward the climax.  This movie is really all about Mercy and George, which is really as it should be.
The story of the movie in and of itself isn't really the problem as much as the execution of it all is.  I lost count of the jump scares contained within the film, as they are practically constant, and become basically telegraphed after a while.  If you see a character standing somewhere quietly for a moment, you can expect either a jarring jump cut to something else or a person grabbing them from off screen, or in the absolute worst of them, a car barreling down the road at full speed to kill them.  One character in the film is a painter, and her designs are truly creepy, but sadly that's the only form of horror that is effective in the film.  The design of the demon that overtakes Mercy is not remotely Lovecraftian, and is clearly just lazy design, being mostly a cross between a living shadow and Swamp Thing.  I'm usually one to get freaked out at overly elongated people twitching unnaturally, but when Mercy's body starts doing it during the climax it did nothing for me.  And when George talks to the shadow creature standing behind her, asking it a question, and it literally takes her head and nods it, I laughed.

Near the beginning of the film, we see George talking to a young girl, and then find out that no one else can see her.  It doesn't take long to figure out that this is Mercy's spirit, trying to save him from the demon that wants to eat his heart so it can continue to live.  This is a pretty dramatic change from the story, where either Gramma or perhaps Hastur simply want George as a vessel to keep on living.  But this movie did want to attempt a happy ending, so instead George defeats the creature - just don't ask me how.  The story makes mention of Gramma's books, and they tried to incorporate that here with a book that will show you how to achieve what you want if you cry over it.  They even seem to take a page from the Twilight Zone adaptation by the fact that George finds the book under the floorboards.  However the story contradicts itself quite a bit because instead of George seeing how to save Mercy as he cries over the book, he just keeps seeing himself killed.  Yet somehow, while the demon is holding Mercy like a puppetmaster and has George backed up against the wall, his tears on the book kill the demon or at least make him go away.  It seems more like they wrote themselves into a literal corner and didn't know how to get out of it.

So sadly, I can see why the studio wasn't too pleased with this film and didn't think it was suitable for mass audiences.  While the cast is decent, there's just too much nonsense and poor direction here to make this film enjoyable in any way.


  1. Wait, R.L. Flagg home for the elderly? Really?

    1. I’m pretty sure they dropped off the extra G, because that would just be too obvious, right? :)


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