Film Moloch 2022

Moloch, the 2022 Dutch folk horror, arrived on Shudder early this month. The second feature directed by Nico Van Den Bink stars Sallie Harmsen, alongside Alexandre Willaume, and follows Betriek, a widowed mother, as she returns with her daughter to her elderly parents’ isolated cottage. Situated within the woods, on the edge of a large bog somewhere in the northern Netherlands, the discovery of a “Bog Body” brings Danish archaeologist, Jonas, to town; crossing paths with Betriek and becoming enthralled by both her and the mysteries he unearths, while locals begin to die and even members of his own team behave with uncharacteristic violence.

As Betriek wades through a fog of personal and familial trauma, blurring local history and questioning her mental health, she acts as a gatekeeper to Jonas, as well as a literal translator, as he investigates both the dark local history his excavations have discovered and the intriguing young women with whom he is fascinated.

Betriek carries with her the weight of the unsolved murder of her grandmother, and the belief her ill-fated family is cursed, seemingly exiled, as they are, from the local community. Family secrets, folk law rituals and the depths of what is passed from mother to daughter, seep in and around everything, like the thick mist that sweeps in across the bog.

Dark greens and earthy browns make up the provincial colour scape, with glowing yellows and reds offering Hygge-like warmth to interiors, below grey, depthless skies. The remote homestead is far from the more picturesque village, where elderly pillars of the community offer glimpses of old religious practices and insight into customs they’d rather keep hidden from outsiders.

Although dealing with female grief and familial trauma, and even name checking similar characters from demonology, Moloch is a far more subtle, less dramatic, and therefore overlooked film in relation to the likes of Hereditary (2018), The VVitch (2015), or Midsommar (2019). Although directed competently it lacks the budget or flair to prevent it feeling rather televisual, with characters lacking grit and missing dirt beneath their fingernails. The chunky knitwear, boots and oversized wax jackets limit the overt threat that temperate isolated communities could provoke, like that seen in Belgian 2004 horror, Calvaire.

Moloch Review Horror

The script is also lacking and relies too heavily on exposition, without offering any particularly memorable characters or star turns. The slow burn, gradual reveal is an enjoyable, more thought-provoking affair that will dismay horror fans with short attention spans, but the film climactic horror set pieces rely on underwhelming CGI (reminding me of Mama from 2013), showing too much and undermining the viewer’s far scarier imagination.

Although I applaud Moloch’s self-assured restraint, in terms of slower story development– and appreciate the effective combination of grief, folk law and family trauma, tied in with elements of possession, hauntings and ritual sacrifice– Moloch offers little more than a decent, if unmemorable, addition to Shudder’s European archives.

Moloch is now Available to Stream on Shudder

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