Dir. Eric Pennycoff (2022)
A priest invites a young couple into his house but finds his faith tested when he discovers they’re not good company.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The ancient saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” can have a couple of different meanings, either indicating that the best intentions lead to a bad outcome or that your intentions don’t matter if your actions are bad. In Eric Pennycoff’s new dark comedy The Leech coming from Arrow Video, both of these meanings are explored through the lens of a priest who is trying his best to do the right things, though his motivations and outlook may not be guided by the most traditional sense of morality. Everyone has a past, we quickly learn, even the most devout, and sometimes those pasts leak into the present. We also learn that you can only push a man so far before he starts to push back, regardless of his pious disposition.
The Leech delivers outstanding performances from its three leads. Graham Skipper plays Father David, the priest who desires to win back the souls of the ungodly, and Jeremy Gardner and Taylor Zaudtke play Terry and Lexi, the couple who seek solace in his home. The characters are enthralling, the Biblical parallels of their behavior echoed by the sermons given to empty pews. It’s a brilliant film, one that doesn’t break new ground plotwise but manages to provide a new twist on the “bad houseguest” concept. The movie is beautifully shot, though at times perhaps a bit too dark, and Pennycoff has written a fantastic script to allow his three stars to shine. While I’m a huge fan of Arrow, sometimes their movies are a bit strange and more appealing to a grindhouse or avant garde sensibility than they are “good movies.” This one is excellent, though, a great reminder that those folks know exactly what they’re doing.
Growing up in the church can be enlightening when watching movies like this, and having an awareness of a lot of the stories involved helps to delineate where the story is heading. Once we get to the batshit and bloody finale, however, all bets are off, leading to a conclusion that is hard to see coming from the beginning. While this one isn’t particularly extreme, it actually is fairly comparable to Christmas Cruelty!, my most recent yuletide review, with more than enough pitch-black comedic sentiment for even the most discerning tastes. If you’re looking for a movie that will scratch that Noel feeling, look no further than The Leech. Just don’t forget to go to Mass in the morning.
Who this movie is for:
Bottom line: This one was a huge hit for me, a Christmas miracle about piety, madness, and redemption. The acting is truly stellar and the story exceptional, a great addition to a perhaps more bizarre holiday lineup. If you’re a fan of Arrow Video and are looking for a holiday movie that best represents their filmography, this is a fantastic choice. Pennycoff is an incredible talent, and I can’t wait to see more films from his twisted mind. Check this one out at your earliest Christmas convenience