Mercy follows the tale of one family, divided between two sets of estranged half brothers, as they return home to say a final goodbye to their mother as she approaches her death. However, as they come together again, old wounds in the family history are torn wide open again, with hidden motives, grasping greed and unburied hatred coursing through this gathering. With the tension becoming ever more palpable, the night will suddenly descend into a battle of survival, where the strength of brotherhood is tested and a dark secret from the past will come to torment all those who stand in the way of mercy.

The key to the Mercy’s power lies in the incredible tautness of the film as a complete work, in particular the sense of balance in the narrative, thematic and visual construction of the film. Mercy is marked by reflection and rhythm; there is a clear sense of relationship between the repetition of imagery and iconography (the lighter, the puzzle, the bag) and our perception of character and the motivation of their desire. There is no better illustration of this balance between perception and desire than in the symmetry of brothers at the core of the film. From the early stages, the two pairs of brothers, joined together as half siblings, form an essential duality, played out in both icy cold pauses and fiery eruptions of temperament; their animosity played out in a collision of emotions. Director Chris Sparling uses this dichotomy so strongly that it acts as the driving force for the film’s initial tone, before completely transforming as the narrative progressively shifts into an alternate confrontation, one that echoes the conflict of brotherhood and plays on the notion of familial bonds.

Furthermore, what Mercy taps into so perfectly is not simply the invasion of the home itself, but the symbolic invasion of the family itself. With the overwhelming dysfunction established, creating a rivalry filled with suggestion and mystery, the sudden shock of the arrival of masked intruders at once naturally plays into the preconceived narrative of greed and familial distain, but more importantly, as the situation evolves, it serves to create a shift in the direction of the film, enhancing the already palpable sense of unease and relentless tension. This is reinforced by the decision to play with the linear direction of the film itself, cutting back and replaying the central dramatic set piece of the film from alternate perspectives, revealing depth and adding more pieces to a very dark puzzle indeed.

Perhaps the sheer tension created in the first half of the film begins to lessen as the narrative revelations unfold, but the balance of the overall piece is so exquisitely achieved that it remains gripping with a sense of poise that is exudes quiet confidence and overwhelming quality. You could also argue that maybe it doesn’t push far enough in relieving atmosphere of tension, something that could understandably frustrate those in search of catharsis; however, I personally feel that in maintaining the weight of this morally turbulent and ambiguous atmosphere serves to leave the burden of the film’s murky world resting on the audience long after they leave the theater, lingering in the mind and reinforcing the simplicity of focus that makes the film such a pleasure to endure. Indeed, at its very best, the visual tone and chilling tension is reminiscent of Mike Flanagan’s tremendous Hush, and stands alongside it as one of the superior home invasion thrillers in what has been a banner year for the subgenre.

Mercy is a taut experience that works perfectly in the precise spectrum that the film establishes for itself, able to generate genuine menace and intrigue through the composure of its structure, visual compositions and constant sense of momentous dread in creating a conflict of families, wrought with contrast and symmetry.

Horror Channel Frightfest review: Mercy
4.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: