Mercy Black Review: Blumhouse’s surprise ends up being a big disappointment
Blumhouse dropped an April Fool’s surprise on Netflix in the form of a new horror flick, Mercy Black, but the surprise ends up being lackluster as the film’s clear inspirations overtake the final product and the scares are few.
The film follows Marina Hess (Daniella Pineda), a woman who stabbed a classmate as a young girl to conjure an imaginary phantom known as Mercy Black. Once she returns to her hometown to live with her sister (Elle LaMont) and her son (Miles Emmons), this imaginary phantom might be more fact than fiction as weird things begin to happen. Now, Marina must figure out what’s happening around her and if Mercy Black is truly real before things start to become fatal.
Almost immediately I couldn’t help but think how similar the story of Mercy Black is to characters like Slender Man and, more recently, Momo. However, Mercy Black has none of the allure or mystery that these characters have and doesn’t have a strong presence in the film whatsoever. The film tries to make it seem like Mercy Black has a similar internet presence, as well as a town legend, to that of Slender Man and Momo, but it makes no impression. The character design is nothing special and the way that the film attempts to make you question whether Marina’s fears are real or not feels completely pointless.
The film tries to play off like there is a possibility that Mercy Black is something all in Marina’s head, but there’s never enough time given to the mythos of the character or enough suspense built to make me have a similar conflict while watching. Honestly, the film couldn’t even decide which side of that fence it wants to be on as a late plot twist that should just establish the film taking one side is pretty much undercut by a last-minute change that is both dumb and forced.
Even the characters feel under-developed and under-whelming and miss out on what can make these characters interesting. Overall, the performances are fine, but there’s very little depth given to characters to make them more than just tropes or cut-and-paste horror characters. What could’ve made Marina more interesting is looking into how Mercy Black has affected her over the years and more interactions with the town due to her return. Even Austin Amelio’s Will could’ve used more depth as his obsessive nature with Mercy Black and Marina’s history could’ve been interesting, and I wish there was more time put into Bryce to develop his growing obsession with Mercy Black.
Now, while I do keep comparing the film to internet horror stories and characters like Slender Man and Momo, because it’s kind of hard not to, Mercy Black is disappointing because of how it can’t benefit from its timeliness. The concept itself is incredibly relevant with the recent documentary, Beware the Slenderman, bringing light to a crime story involving the stabbing of a child to please the legendary figure and Momo becoming breaking news around the world. However, Mercy Black doesn’t understand that what made those stories so alluring was the conversation that people had about the power of these stories and their impact on children. The film could’ve actually had some nice commentary about the power of the internet and these kinds of stories, but instead it doesn’t try much at all.
Not to mention, the film lacks some unique scares and tension building moments throughout the film. There are some select moments, like Will’s battle with Mercy inside of his house and Bryce doing despicable things to a friend of his, but the film is clearly reliant on jump scares. There’s even some nice use of the environment to create a creepy atmosphere, but these moments are too far and in-between to make any sort of long-standing impact and are given too much time to breathe due to tons of clunky dialogue.
So Blumhouse’s big April Fool’s Day surprise ends up being more of a bad April Fool’s Day prank that doesn’t end up being fun, funny, or scary. The concept is there, and some moments show that Mercy Black can be something special, but they are just moments that don’t last long and feel hidden behind the unoriginality of the film.