Mercy (2007)

Mercy (click for larger image)Starring Gary Shannon, Shelley Farrell, Charles McNeely III, Julie Ann Fay

Directed by Patrick Roddy

There is no mercy for John, the ex-con. After twenty plus years of prison he finally has a new lease on life, but picking up the pieces won’t be easy. His parole officer is a prick, his landlord is a jerk, and he has been assigned to a repetitive job that will lead to nowhere. At the very least this is the safest way to keep from ending up behind bars … until the nightmares start.

A few weeks after John’s release from the slammer, he starts to awaken from each nightmare missing a part of his body. At first it’s a tooth, then a pinky, and pretty soon larger and more important parts get whisked away in the night. Can John continue his parole if he’s falling apart? Why does a dead woman haunt him? Will no one have mercy on this man?!

Mercy (click for larger image)I watched Patrick Roddy’s Mercy three times just to make sure I knew what the score was before attempting to transmit an opinion here on Dread Central. Mercy is such a unique horror movie that it is almost impossible to categorize it for fear of insulting the work itself. It has some qualities similar to the mind-fuck Dark Corners and even shares a little bit of that film’s dark humor, but it rises above everything like it to deliver the chills. For instance, while sitting in my darkened room, I actually had a jolt of fear come over me at the first sight of the girl. There were no loud musical stingers; it was just the creepy presentation of her presence, almost ghostly but still there. Being as jaded as I am, this doesn’t happen often, and I’m willing to bet it’ll get to you too.

In terms of music, there isn’t much. An old blues song plays periodically in the background, but the strongest musical character is the simple piano notes that slither in from time to time. Mercy isn’t trying to be in your face or attempting to beat you over the head with forced atmosphere. It was nice to finally watch an indie movie like this and not think, “Haven’t I heard this song on at least 20 MySpace pages?” Sweet relief!

Mercy (click for larger image)Oddly enough, Mercy doesn’t feel like a character driven story. John is certainly our main interest, but the compelling aspect of the film is what happens to him, not how he develops as a person. He isn’t exactly likable, but well acted nonetheless. Perhaps it’s the surroundings and supporting cast that really glue the viewer’s eyes to the screen. Two notable characters that kept me coming back were the silent, wild-eyed bartender and John’s unsympathetic parole officer. These two shared an almost Monty Pythonesqe humor without blurting out many words, none in the case of the bartender. Why were they that way? That’s the question that this reviewer wanted to have answered.

Mercy has almost no weaknesses. The movie does reach slow spots that seem to drag at times, but that is about it. Yet, even those few snags are almost erased from memory thanks to the brilliant camera work. Someone sure as hell wanted to keep each scene interesting. Nasty close-ups of gore to simple angle shots of stairwells break through even the most monotonous areas of the film.

There’s just not enough good stuff that can be said about Mercy. What at first appeared to be another in the long line of black & white artsy pictures turned out to be a very entertaining and genuinely unsettling entry into our beloved genre. Tonight I sleep with the light on.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Since 1997, Michael Patrick Phalin has been a contributing writer to various websites including Dread Central, iMockery, Bloody Disgusting and KrytenSyxx. During the early 1980s, Phalin's love of the movie industry was fueled by the VHS tapes he found during his time spent at the video rental store his mother worked at. Rather than attending a daycare regularly, young Michael would form a tower of tapes with interesting cover art and go watch each one, the very first of these being the original 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.' From that point he was hooked on horror and the process behind creating special effects. In his twenties, Mike met Steve 'Uncle Creepy' Barton and was soon aiding the horror website Dread Central with film reviews. As the site grew in popularity, Phalin soon started writing news stories and conducting interviews on a daily basis. After a few years, he decided to take a break from writing to focus on other opportunities. After moving to a beach community with his wife Michelle, both were cast to appear in the final season of A&E's home improvement show 'Fix This Yard' in 2013. This event rekindled Mike's love of the entertainment industry. Between the time he spends being with his family, Michael continues to contribute to Dread Central both with writing and photography. In his mid-thirties, Phalin took up oil painting after being inspired by an episode of Bob Ross. Pieces of his artwork and photography can be found on his Tumblr and official website.