The Leech (2022) Review
The Leech opens in a nearly empty church as Father David (Graham Skipper, Dementia: Part II, Beyond the Gates) is wrapping up a sermon on the golden rule. Afterwards, he finds Terry (Jeremy Gardner, Christmas Bloody Christmas, Offseason) sleeping on one of the pews. He claims to be homeless and, to avoid having him sleep under a bridge, David lets him spend the night at his place.
After a night of less than Christ like behaviour from his guest, he heads back to his church only to hear a confession from a woman beset with an unplanned pregnancy that she’s considering aborting. To cap it all off, when he returns home not only is Terry still there but his girlfriend Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke, After Midnight, Fingers) has joined him. Convinced she’s the woman he spoke with he ends up inviting them to stay with him. It’s a decision he’ll come to regret as the couple gives a new meaning to “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.
With only one other character, Father David’s assistant Rigo (Rigo Garay, Size Up, The Slightest Touch), writer/director Eric Pennycoff (M Is for Mariachi, Sadistic Intentions) has crafted a nasty mix of psychological horror and pure black comedy as David tries to save the couple. But not only do they not want to be saved, but they also want to drag their host down with them. If not destroy him outright.
As Lexi and Terry test Father David’s boundaries and see how far they can push past them while he rather futilely tries to keep order the film plays like a comedy of embarrassment. But, as the film goes on, and things escalate David’s motivation as well as his sanity starts to slip the film’s tone becomes much darker.
It’s in the last half hour or so that The Leech earns its horror tag as David is finally pushed too far and insanity makes its presence felt. The result is an ending that will leave a lot of viewers shocked. Personally, I would have preferred a slightly different, and possibly more shocking final scene but it is what it is. The final act’s events are underscored by Rommel Genciana’s (City, Zack and Michael) cinematography and Bobby Sherbert (Sadistic Intentions) editing. Echoing The Leech’s narrative insanity the visuals become disorienting as well.
Obviously, a film as character-driven as The Leech needs excellent performances if it’s going to work. Garay does well in the supporting role, especially as it’s his first feature after appearing in a few shorts. The three leads however are all excellent. Gardner and Skipper are both indie horror mainstays and have appeared together several times before. Zaudtke while not having as much experience has considerable talent and, being his real-life wife, has excellent chemistry with Gardner.
It also helps that the cast is playing exaggerated versions of the types of people most of us have known. We’ve all met nice guys who are willing to help those in need. And it’s every bit as likely that we’ve had the misfortune to cross paths with freeloaders who will take all that’s offered and shamelessly ask for more. Terry and Lexi take that to the point of sociopathy becoming the dangerous version of the downstairs neighbour who always needs to borrow something and get a ride somewhere.
Ultimately, The Leech is an unnerving film that uses both humour and menace to get under the viewer’s skin. It’s a Christmas horror for those looking for something about more involved than Satan Clause or Toys of Terror.
Arrow will release The Leech, on December 5th in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland, it will be available on Blu-ray as well as all major VOD and Digital platforms on December 6th. If you’re looking for more films like this, you can hit up FilmTagger for a few suggestions.