As a Christian horror movie lover, I always wonder why more genre films aren’t made about the church. There are so many aspects that you could touch upon. You’ve got severe, carbon-copy nuns, silent monks who keep secrets, priests that hear confessions from the damned, tenuous connections to secret groups like the Illuminati, demons vs angels, exorcisms, conflicted priests, and rules to break… so many rules to break. Werewolves and vampires a one-note ponies, but the church… So when I heard about David S. Hogan’s The Parish, a movie about a church community hiding a big secret, I knew I had to see it.
Haunted by the death of her husband, Liz uproots her daughter and moves them to a small town, where the real nightmares begin.
The Parish was directed by David S. Hogan (Z Nation TV series) from a script written by Todd Downing (The Collectibles TV series). Hogan’s wife, Angela DiMarco (1-800 Witches Gotta Burn! 2017), stars in the film as Liz, a recent widow who has taken her daughter, Audrey, played by Sanae Lousis (Friday the 13th: Vengeance 2019 – read our review here), up the West Coast to try and escape the grief from her husband’s (Ray Tagaville: The Apex 2019) passing. The moment they arrive in their new town, Audrey starts acting weird… even weirder than the average 12-year-old. And Liz starts to see things that others tell her aren’t really there. Is it all in her head? Or is there something supernatural going on? And can she trust all of the people around her?
Like I mentioned earlier, I am a Christian who loves horror films. I even co-own this site along with the beautiful Tori Danielle Romero. So the idea of Christian horror really speaks to me. However, a lot of church-related horror films are full of incorrect or outright insulting content. It’s as if the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered with researching what people really do in church and how people of faith would react in certain situations. They just slap a bunch of random semi-religious clichés together and hope for the best. The Exorcist got it right, and The Parish got it right. The characters aren’t over-the-top, crazy-eyed religious fanatics, and they don’t spend the movie questioning their faith. They are just regular people doing regular things who also happen to believe in God. I cannot tell you how refreshing that is.
I have to mention how much I love seeing Bill Oberst, Jr. as Father Felix. Bill is known for the crazy, demented characters that he often plays, so seeing him portray not just a good guy but a man of the cloth is wonderful to witness. As always, he is one of the strongest points in this film. His Father Felix is an uplifting, positive force in Liz’s world, holding her firmly by the hand while standing up against these forces of evil. Opposite him is Angela DiMarco playing worried mother and widow, Liz. She does such a wonderful job in The Parish. Everything from her mannerisms to her speech inflections to her facial tics are spot on. She is able to convey the worry, fear, and grief someone in her situation would be drowning in perfectly. I can’t wait to see her in more projects.
What Doesn’t Work
While so many things about The Parish work, there’s a major flaw in the movie… it’s just not scary. Way too much time was spent on Liz’s grief and wine drinking, and not enough was used to create any kind of tension or creepiness. The story idea is a good one, and I would have loved to see a more feverish rise to climax as Father Felix and Liz discover what’s going on and rush to solve the mystery. I feel like Liz is more determined to get Audrey to stop hating on the new place than she was in trying to figure out what’s going on with this shushing nun. There are also a few loose ends that I wish had been explored or at least tied up. When Father Felix mentions being followed home by something after his time serving in the desert, I thought this would become a major plot point, but it was never mentioned again. What a missed opportunity. There’s also the question: what is going on with her husband? Is he really there? What will happen to him now?
This isn’t really something that doesn’t work in The Parish, but it is something I noticed. To me, it seems like the part of Audrey was written for a younger child. The character is said to be 12-years-old, but some of her lines and actions (like playing with a ball with another kid) feel more like something an 8- or even 10-year-old would do and say, not someone on the cusp of womanhood. I get that the tension between Liz and Audrey was supposed to be heightened by the fact that she was a pre-teen, but sometimes things would happen that would make me think the original plan was for a younger actress. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.
The Parish is a great story about a woman and her daughter struggling after suffering a huge loss, only to be hit with an even bigger horror once they move. It’s not a scary film, although there are genre elements. Give it a watch to see Bill Oberst, Jr. in a role you’ve never seen him in before and experience the blooming talent of Angela DiMarco.