‘That little boy is gone now and I’m what’s left…’
Horror is a broad church. Is Silence of the Lambs a horror film? Jaws? Alien? The answer is yes, yes and yes. Anything that makes you feel scared is a horror film. Anything that clings to you like wet paper is a horror film. The Righteous is a religious fable. It’s an arty treatise on God and the devil. It’s a film that is mainly just two men lit in blacks, whites and greys talking about theology. Most people will watch this film and feel nothing, or (as my wife did) feel bored, but for those of us still harbouring Catholic guilt, there is horror here. You just have to look for it…
Former priest Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) spends his days living out in the countryside and doting on his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk). That is until Aaron (Mark O’Brien – who also writes and directs), a mysterious young man, comes stumbling out of the forest and into the lives of Frederic and Ethel. Does he hold the key to unlocking Frederic’s lapsed faith?
An odd premise then, and this is an odd film generally. Filmed in stark, but aesthetically beautiful black and white, and with little to recommend it in terms of action, your enjoyment of The Righteous will depend entirely on your ability to sit through over 90 minutes of dialogue. When the action does come towards the end of the film, it is rewarding and shocking. In short, this is a film that demands patience, but the sometimes arduous journey is just about worth the destination. Both O’Brien and particularly Czerny are wonderful, and the two of them share an electric antagonism that carries the movie through its more tedious moments.
The Righteous is bold filmmaking that deserves plaudits for taking a risk on uncomfortable subject matter. It’s also too ponderous at times. Not for everybody., but rewarding for some.