Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Moloch, on Shudder

Sometimes in the movies, archaeology is adventurous (like in Indiana Jones). In this case, it is creepy, even more so than the average mummy movie. When a bog body turns up in the northern rural Dutch countryside, it fascinates and alarms a young widow in Nico van den Brink’s Moloch, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

Betriek was already in a bit of a weird place, having just moved back in with her grouchy dad and her somewhat difficult mother. Plus, she still carries the childhood trauma stemming from the violent home invasion-murder of her grandmother. A few days ago, the local town “eccentric” discovered a bog body near their property. Then he turned up dead in another hole he dug, shortly thereafter.

The news of his death understandably unnerves Betriek, but she is still interested in the fossilized body—and maybe even more interested in Jonas, the Scandinavian archaeologist overseeing the excavation site. He is kind of interested too, which kind of works out, since he will have a lot of work to keep him there when several more bog bodies turn up. The only drawback is the way people start acting crazy, like Jonas’s formerly trusted colleague, Radu.

Moloch is a lot like a lot of other films, but van den Brink’s command of atmosphere is first-rate. He skillfully teases out the intriguing backstory and steadily builds the tension and foreboding. He and co-screenwriter Daan Bakker totally tap into what makes folk horror popular.

Sallie Harmsen and Alexandre Willaume also make solid, appealing horror leads as Betriek and Jonas. Arguably, van den Brink and Bakker make it easier for them by letting their characters avoid typical horror movie mistakes and giving them a decent degree of intuition. This film causes no groaning or eye-rolling, which sounds like a low bar to clear, but a whole lot of horror movies can’t make that claim.

Ultimately, it is the dark folky vibe and the dank, moor-like environment that makes
Moloch so effective. It is relatively smart and massively eerie. Highly recommended for folk horror fans, Moloch starts streaming tomorrow (7/21), on Shudder.