James Cullen Bressack has risen to greatness as a filmmaker and storyteller among the indie horror community, steadily heading toward mainstream awesomeness. His in-your-face style of directing, ability to pull you into the emotionality of terror is notable. His film “Pernicious” is the latest in his long line of cinematic accoutrements, which began with low budget SOV style films, before evolving into head-on, “too real for fantasy”, character driven nightmares. Regardless of whether you like his work or not one this is for sure, James Cullen Bressack takes the concept of horror and perverts it into a true spectacle of horror.
“Pernicious” stars Ciara Hanna, Emily O'Brien, and Jackie Moore as three young educators starting off in a foreign land on a humanitarian mission. The multicultural story was co-written by Taryn Hillin and blends urban legend with supernatural mythology. Westerners head out into the big ole world only to become prey for societal degenerates and local superstitions. “Pernicious” takes on three lovely birds with one bloody and brutal stone. It is a bit of a departure from Bressack’s gritty, “real world” character studies in horror like “Hate Crime” and “To Jennifer”, but a departure that he seems comfortable in having worked with The Asylum on “13/13/13 , and who can forget “Blood Lake”.
Now personally I enjoyed Bresseck’s earlier, low budget nightmares to these bigger budgeted horrors, but one this is for sure-the guy can give some good horror! “Pernicious” is a cut above the a fore mentioned supernatural horrors with a tighter story that holds up from start to finish. It isn’t as straight forward as you think going into the story which adds a greater amount of suspense to the film. The acting is a bit lukewarm, with often disconnected line deliveries, and dramatic expressiveness. At times it feels a bit “Lifetime”. Still, the characters are convincing enough to pull you into the story, connect with them, and “die” to see how this whole “sich” plays out!
The special effects and cinematography are what really hold “Pernicious” together. There are moments when Bresseck almost serenades Eli Roth with the full on gory scenes of violence. The blood, grue and kills are very exploitative and visceral, something that I really beg for in my horror-more so lately. Yet it is carefully blended with a surreal, paranormally atmospheric chilliness that elevates the horror to true ghost story expectations. Combine that with the quality filming framed around a fascinating and scenic environment and you have a world class horror story. Also the soundtrack which is a mix of creepy, suspenseful instrumental sounds and classic, spooky effects carry the macabre nature through “Pernicious” nicely.
Overall “Pernicious” is a great story, well written and carefully executed. It brings a bit of the more exotic superstitious nature of the world into western mentalities. The actual scare-factor isn’t really present in the film, but the suspense and horror are very much here. The acting at times does fill forced, with choppy dialog given during dramatic scenes, and Bresseck’s “in-your-face” brutality of man is missing from “Pernicious” much as it was missed in his other supernatural horror films, “13/13/13” and “Blood Lake” (yes I believe a sci-fi creature feature that exaggerates the monstrous nature of wild life is “supernatural” ). The bottom line is this, “Pernicious” is a great ghost story, that offers a more “Lifetime Movie Network After Dark” experience on a R-rated level. I do miss the James Cullen Bressack that had me in fear of my neighbor and afraid to flirt with the checker down at the supermarket though!