An ancient terror hidden deep in a bog is the source of the evil held in the creepy Shudder original film “Moloch.”
While lifelong horror aficionados might not get the benefits of full-on frights (we horror fans have seen it all), the film’s eerie aura is quite effective and holds a sense of unease throughout.
In this effective supernatural creeper, Sallie Harmsen is Betriek, a widowed single mother living with her young daughter and parents.
The family reside in the northern Netherlands, in the country outside of their small town. Their house sits near the edge of a bog blanketed in smoke and holding something dark and possibly evil.
Cinematographer Emo Weemhoff keeps things visually unnerving. The cold Fall nights populated with dark green trees and the muddy brown bog bring about the sense of dread. Weemhoff doesn’t over-light the mists and fog and achieves a realistic look throughout.
One night, Betriek finds a man in the kitchen. He apologizes and begins to attack the mother, until her father kills him.
The moment works very well, as the screenplay (from director Nico van den Brink and Daan Bakker) plants the seeds of shock for the family; shock in a total stranger attacking them and shock in how the father killed the man so easily, and with no hesitation.
Due to a terrifying experience with her grandmother when she was child, Betriek feels her family is cursed and, in this moment, she and her parents feel that said curse is rearing its head once again.
Betriek takes an interest in an archeological dig that uncovered a body in the bog, and in the head of the team, Jonas (Alexandre Willaume).
While the townsfolk are less than thrilled with the goings on, Jonas and Betriek find a common spark in their need to get to the truth of the terrors and their connection to what is beginning to happen.
The more Betriek thinks about the attack, she feels there may be an evil spirit that took the man over, as she becomes plagued by horrifying visions that will connect her to a past trauma and a very real and present evil.
The script keeps the audience on edge, as it teases with well-placed hints and ghostly symbolism that guide us down its mysterious path.
The film is a good folk horror tale and director Nico van den Brink has an eye for genuine horror atmosphere. Many scenes are gripping in their execution and the filmmaker never allows his viewers a reprieve from the disturbing and always interesting mystery.
The director weaves the different plot threads into a spiderweb of frights that trap the characters in an inescapable fate.
By the time we reach the finale, the shocks work and (although the look of the Moloch is a bit too CGI), the titular creature’s reveal is effective.
Atmospherically intoxicating and driven by a terrific ambient score from Ella van der Woude, “Moloch” is a well-crafted and quite effective horror film with a good story and an almost unbearable tension.