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‘The Perished’ Review: Dir. Paddy Murphy [Frightfest 2019]

The Perished review: A young woman is haunted by the cries of dead babies in this Ireland-set eerie tale from one of Frightfest’s own.

Mike Shawcross

The Perished screening its world premiere at Arrow Video Frightfest was something that was almost written in the stars. Were it not for Frightfest, the film might not even exist. Writer and director Paddy Murphy is a recent convert to the genre festival that celebrates the dark heart of cinema, but upon attending for the first time in 2016, was instantly smitten. Being an aspiring filmmaker himself, the festival called to him and helped him during a darker moment of his life. Murphy had just released his feature debut to little fan fare and was thinking about throwing in the towel until Frightfest gifted him director Joe Lynch (Mayhem, Wrong Turn 2). Lynch and Murphy reportedly spoke outside the Phoenix (the nightly drinking spot for festival-goers) and Lynch encouraged him to stick with film-making. The next day, after getting home, Murphy sat down, began writing, and that is how The Perished was born.

Set in Ireland, and dealing with the still taboo topic of abortion, The Perished tells the story of a Sarah (Courtney Mckeon) who discovers she’s pregnant just as her boyfriend breaks up with her. Cast out by her angry mother, and not able to face bringing up a child alone, Sarah travels to England for a secret abortion. Upon her return home, she relocates to the country for some recuperation. The relaxation doesn’t last long though as the house is actually the site of a mass baby grave, and sensing her maternal nature, the supernatural infants begin to seek out a new mother…

Whilst on the surface The Perished seemingly deals with the various feelings and reactions to abortion, the film is much more about the importance of communication. You can’t help but feel that if Sarah were to speak up earlier about her pregnancy, that her partner might not have called it quits so early. Of course, she’d then be in the predicament of is he there for her or the baby, but at least he would have a chance to process his feelings. Were she also to tell her mother, rather than her mother discovering the used test, it might not have been such a dirty little secret. As it stands though, Sarah does keep her thoughts and emotions to herself and gradually they begin to weigh on her.

Mike Shawcross

The Perished also isn’t a straight forward ‘traditional’ horror film. When I say that I mean that it’s not riddled with cheap jump scares, moments of horror all the way through, and constant needless deaths. Murphy slowly builds to these elements, but the first half of the film at least is much more focused on Sarah – how she is coping, her trauma, and the downfall of her relationships. The only inkling that we get that there might be something untoward happening is the screaming babies that Sarah begins to hear. Screams that no one else seems able to hear.

Slowly and deliberately, once the phantom screams begin, Murphy starts to season the story with other creepy elements. These elements gradually build in frequency and intensity to an almighty crescendo that screams horror. The climactic moments are like something straight out of Clive Barker’s mind and have a distinct Hellraiser tone to them.

A film of many dualities, The Perished is an accomplished feature that demonstrates the talents of Murphy and his team. A relationship drama bolstered by nightmarish visions and traumatic sounds, it’s the perfect film for Frightfest, and it’s made by one of their own.

The Perished was reviewed at Arrow Video Frightfest 2019. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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