Film: The Leech
Director: Eric Pennycoff
Writer: Eric Pennycoff
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Graham Skipper and Taylor Zaudtke
This is a movie that I heard about thanks to Duncan from the Podcast Under the Stairs. Things he said about this were buzzwords for me, like this being a Christmas horror movie. It also starring Jeremy Gardner and Graham Skipper as well. This went on a list and I was excited to see. I got the chance thanks to Justin Cook who sent over the screener. Jaime also watched this with me as she is a fan of Gardner.
Synopsis: a devout priest welcomes a struggling couple into his house at Christmas time. What begins as a simple act of kindness quickly becomes the ultimate test of faith once the sanctity of his home is jeopardized.
There isn’t a lot that I need to expand from that synopsis. Father David (Skipper) is the priest over a struggling parish. There seems to be only a couple of people who attend his sermon when we start this and one of this Rigo (Rigo Garay). We learn later that David helped him when he was found living in a truck stop bathroom. He now helps with the priest. Things change on this Sunday when David wakes up Terry (Gardner) who is sleeping in a pew.
Leaving the church, David overhears Terry trying to get his cellphone to work. David offers him to use his car to charge it. He then gives him a ride to the house of his girlfriend. It appears no one is home. Terry’s stuff is also out on the lawn. David then is forced to practice what he preaches and offers his home to Terry to help.
Terry is a rough guy. He smokes, drinks and uses drugs. David wants to help him like he did with Rigo. This is a challenge for him as Terry takes advantage. He tries to secretly move his girlfriend, Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke), in one night. David thinks he knows who she is. There was a woman who gave confession earlier that day, saying they were pregnant and didn’t know what to do. David is forced by his conscious to let them stay.
Things are tougher than he expects though as they challenge not only his beliefs but make him question things in his own life. David has taken a vow of celibacy and to not drink in excess. The more they’re together, the corruption grows within this priest and things turn violent as Christmas looms.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I think we are getting a character study of David. We see that he’s the priest of a struggling church. I like that he’s positive in trying to find ways to build up his congregation. This can be from using Rigo to help with music. He also uses social media to entice the younger generation. It isn’t working, but I like that he’s using modern attempts to connect with the younger generation, especially since it seems they’ve fallen out with organized religion. David doesn’t seem like a bad guy.
Things change when he meets Terry. He is a corrupting factor here. Terry peer pressures David into doing things like drinking. Lexi to an extent as well. What is interesting is that there is a deeper underlying aspect to this. There is the logical explanation that Terry is just a bad influence. There’s a supernatural angle that Terry could be the Devil. Him and Lexi hear things that David’s says and they pervert it. Why did David meet Rigo in this truck stop bathroom? Was he cruising? There are implications that David is a repressed gay person. Could it be just that he needed to stop off to use the bathroom and saw a person in need? There are two ways to look at it. I also picked up on that David is a recovering alcoholic. He reveals that he used to smoke when he was training to be a priest. I think he had a drinking problem as well that is brought out through Terry. I like that there are two ways to read this and it leaves it up to the audience to decide. Personally, I like to believe there is a supernatural bit here.
This wouldn’t work though if not for the acting. Skipper and Gardner are amazing here. They are both independent actors that are just great at becoming characters. I like seeing Skipper as this priest who has the best of intentions. As he is taken advantage of, he descends into madness. It is on point. Gardner is also great at just being this deadbeat guy as well. They carry the show here. That isn’t meant as a slight to Zaudtke and Garay. They are good for what is needed to push them to where they end up as well.
Now the last things to get into would be with the filmmaking. The cinematography here is good. I like that there are subtle things done with how things are framed as well as lighting. The moment that Terry moves in, there are lights that flicker. It made me think that it could be supernatural or this is just an old house. They do well in distorting images when people are drinking. It makes you wonder if what we are seeing is real or not. There are also strobing lights and even a red filter. I think these all add to the atmosphere. Other than that, I’d say the limited effects we get are good. There is blood and aftereffects of things that look real. The soundtrack also adds to what is needed on top of that.
In conclusion, this is a solid little film for sure. I read that this was filmed during pandemic and having this small of a cast makes sense. It adds something to the ‘parish’ that David is worried about. This has a simple story, but more about the performances. Skipper and Gardner play so well off each other with Zaudtke and Garay pushing them to where they need to. I think this is also a well-made film overall. I enjoyed my time here and this is worth a viewing to horror as well as non-horror fans alike. Gives an interesting look at Christmas as well as the Christians in my opinion.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10