Missionary (2013)

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Missionary (2013)Starring Dawn Olivieri, Mitch Ryan, Kip Pardue, Jordan Woods-Robinson

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi

Dread director Anthony DiBlasi takes an interesting approach to the psycho-suitor genre with his Mormon maniac flick Missionary, wherein the unhinged love interest happens to be one egregiously deranged member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Said maniac is Kevin Brock (Ryan), a fitness fanatic and devoted Mormon trainee. While on the local rounds with his partner in salvation-peddling, Alan (Woods-Robinson), Brock comes across the homestead of Katherine (Olivieri) and her aspiring football player son, Kesley (Conner Christie). Stepping in to demonstrate his athletic prowess while helping Kesley train for an upcoming game, Brock catches the eye of Katherine while changing his shirt — and thus, the wheels of affection are set in motion towards the inevitably violent climax.

Currently estranged from her husband Ian (Pardue, delivering the solid performance that can usually be expected of him), Katherine soon finds the stirring in her loins and the fatigue of raising her son alone getting the best of her as she makes a move and embarks on a sexual affair with the hunky Brock. Not long after, however, she comes to realise that accepting her genuinely loving husband back into the fold is best for her family — but the obsessive Brock isn’t going to take the news lightly. As the true depths of his insanity begin to flow to the surface, Katherine’s loved ones, and anyone who gets in the way of Brock’s determination to keep his new God-given Celestial Family, are placed in immediate danger.

Film4 FrightFest - The Dead 2: India ReviewIt’s pretty hard to make a Fatal Attraction style thriller that truly stands out, yet here DiBlasi succeeds in doing so by virtue of his cast and a sense of self-assured determination. Leads Ryan and Olivieri are commendably convincing in their roles, both efforts being equally impressive throughout Brock’s increasing mental breakdown. The strong script helps immensely, hitting all of the right beats that one expects from the genre while DiBlasi keeps a tight rein on the pace. None of the characters act beyond the realm of comprehension, including Katherine’s devoted and understanding husband once he learns the truth of the situation and attempts to set things right in his own way. Refreshingly, compared to disappointingly pedestrian efforts such as 2009’s Coffin Rock, DiBlasi isn’t afraid to get bloody, with some particularly heinous and shocking acts committed by Brock in the name of lovelorn obsession.

On another positive note, the treatment of religion and in particular the Mormon faith is never judgemental, condescending, or played for broad comedy, which coupled with the solid characterisation and excellent performances makes for an engrossing and mature piece of work. Sure, it doesn’t ever fully manage to transcend the trappings of the standard psycho-drama construction, but regularly nails what it needs to. The finale, however, could have stood to be imbued with a little more tension, brutality, and bigger payoff –yet as a complete package, Missionary stands tall, white-shirted, black-tied and ready to convert you with sheer confidence. An exemplary specimen of human horror done right.

4 out of 5

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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