The Parish opens with a man looking into the camera as he carries a woman from a ruined building in slow motion. Then an explosion takes them both out. That man was Jason Charles (Ray Tagavilla, Danger Diva). His wife Liz (Angela DiMarco, The Last Laugh, Beta Test) responds to the loss by moving herself and her daughter Audrey (Sanae Loutsis, Beloved Beast, The Black String) from San Diego to rural Washington.
It doesn’t seem to help much though. Liz suffers nightmares of Jason pleading for help. Audrey hates her new home, at least until she meets Caleb (Lucas Oktay). The only problem is, apart from Liz and Audrey nobody can see him.
Watching this unfold is just as dull as it sounds when you read it. Much of The Parish is centred around Liz’s grief over her husband’s death. That and her issues with her daughter, which seem to rise out of her reaction to her grief. It also beats you over the head with its Catholicism. Obviously, religion has a place in horror, you really can’t have Satan and demons without God and angels. And skillfully done even a pro-religion theme isn’t a bad thing.
While our film does have a nun (and an exorcism!), the heart of the film is centred on the story of Liz Charles and her struggle to put her life and family back together and losing her husband during the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan.David S. Hogan
But The Parish is relentless in its proselytizing. Crucifixes are everywhere, we see mother and daughter praying and talking about how Audrey’s daddy is watching over her from heaven. There’s a long-held shot of a cross on a church steeple.
And that’s before we even meet Father Felix (Bill Oberst Jr., The Good Things Devils Do, Hunting Grounds) who faced down evil entities as part of a tank crew in Iraq. He says the evil followed him home, but what should have been an important plot thread is dropped as soon as it’s mentioned. Did he defeat it? Is it still stalking him? Is it involved with what’s going on now?
If that was the film’s only flaws it would be bad enough, but The Parish is littered with problems. So much is made about Liz moving away from San Diego. Even Jason’s spirit is unhappy with it. But if I’d just lost an active-duty loved one that’s one of the last places I’d want to be. There’s a huge military presence due to the naval base, the second largest in the US, in the city itself and Camp Pendelton just north of it. The couple of times I’ve been there it seems you see uniformed personnel, vehicles, etc on a daily basis. Not the kind of constant reminder I’d want if I was grieving.
Also, Audrey is supposed to be a young teen, but she frequently acts like a child. In an interview, DiMarco, and her husband, The Parish’s director David S. Hogan, say that she was a child in the original script and her age changed in rewrites. They didn’t do a good job of it.
Worst of all though, The Parish, despite being billed as a horror film is never scary. Sister Beatrice (Gin Hammond) isn’t particularly intimidating, even with the backing of the hulking Andrew (Jonathan Holbrook, director of Beloved Beast and The Tall Men). And with so many films featuring evil nuns in the last few years, she needed to be to stand out. Instead she, and the “angry people” are barely in the film.
In fact, The Parish could have cut out the whole subplot about the ghosts, pitched itself as a drama and been better off. Instead, it’s a horror film that acts like it’s too good to resort to mere scares to make its points.
The Parish will be available On Demand and DVD on March 16th from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.