Mike’s Review: Moloch (2022)

★★★  out of ★★★★★
Written and Directed by Nico van den Brink.

As a horror film Moloch really has everything you’d ever want. Well-placed scares. A little blood, but not too much. Ghost-ish characters. Possession — sort of. Pre-christian Low Country mythology. And even — gasp — pagan demon cults!

At its core Moloch follows a single mother, Betriek (Sallie Harmsen), who may have previously suffered at the hands of said pagan demon cult years prior. Now an adult with a child of her own, Betriek lives with her parents on the edge of a murky, dank, and ghostly bog. Her parents are somewhat estranged from each other and Betriek effectively acts as their familial emissary. 

While the Moloch’s origin’s are a pinch sketchy, it’s generally tied to ancient Semitic religions, and involves a bull-like creature that demands, yes demands, significant sacrifices — often in the form of CHILDREN!

The bog, it turns out, is also of significant interest to a gaggle of anthropologists who are trying to unearth its ghastly secrets. They’ve unearthed a collection of weirdly mummified women who’ve had their throats cut vertically. 

As Betriek begins to navigate the secrets of the bog she’s befriended by head anthropologist Jonas (Alexandre Willaume). Together Betriek and her hunky science pal begin to pick apart the recurring nature of the pagan demon cult and its connection to women in the local community. 

The film does unfold a clever piece of exposition towards the end of the second act that involves the local school children and their school play re-imagination of the feminist origins of the pagan demon cult. What serves as a semi-effective exposition dump helps to partially explain the mercurial nature of the cult and Betriek’s relationship to it. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Photo Credit: Boris Suyderhoud/Shudder

Moloch, brought to you by your pals at Shudder, is a really interesting exploration of pre-Christian rites and traditions, but it’s unfortunately a little vague when it comes to the cult’s relationship with the bog and Betriek. There’s some obvious allusions to the trauma that Betriek suffered as a child, but we’re left to assume the cult has some sort of time-sensitive relationship to Betriek’s family lineage. 

Director Nico van den Brink manages to pull off a fascinating little piece of spookshow lore, but it unfortunately gets bogged down (…get it?) with too many vagaries and too little exploration of the true nature of the cult. Everyone in Moloch turns in solid performances, but the film ultimately operates under the spell of Betriek. As Moloch is director Nico van den Brink’s first feature film we have a sinking feeling that there’s more horror greatness lurking in his spooky future. 

If you’re after some Low Country horror mixed in with a healthy dose of folk musings, then Molch might just satiate your horror needs. Moloch really does have everything you need in a horror film, but be forewarned, it’s also a pinch lacking in the exposition department. 

Moloch is likely Rated R and streaming on Shudder.

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