Welcome to Mercy Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by IFC Midnight

Directed by Tommy Bertelsen
Written by Kristen Ruhlin
2018, 104 minutes, Not Rated
Released on November 2nd, 2018

Starring:Kristen Ruhlin as Madaline
Lily Newmark as August
Eileen Davies as Mother Superior
Sophia Massa as Willow
Svetlana Ivannikova as Yelena
Juris Stranga as Father Joseph



Original Sin. If you’re religiously inclined, then you believe that it rests in all of humanity as an innate desire to sin. We all do it. No one is exempt. Ever since Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we are all doomed to be a slave (to some degree) to our desires. What if you pumped some steroids into that concept and set the tale in rustic Latvia? That’s just what Welcome to Mercy aims to do.

Madaline (Kristen Ruhlin; writer of Welcome to Mercy) was given up by her Latvian parents when she was a little girl. She returns home with her daughter, Willow (Sophia Massa in her first role), to see after her ill father. Time has not eased the tensions. Her mother, Yelena (Svetlana Ivannikova), is cold and distant. Upon seeing her father, something terrible grips Madaline and she viciously attacks her own daughter. She is taken to a local convent, The Sisters of Mercy, by Father Joseph (Juris Stranga) to try and relieve her of the evil inside her. She meets August (Lily Newmark; Solo: A Star Wars Story), a “bad girl” nun who seems to encourage less than nunnish behavior. Everyone knows of her curse, and Madaline begins to slowly unravel as the past comes to the surface and the true nature of that curse is revealed in stigmatic signs and terrible memories.

The atmosphere and moodiness strike you right away. This feels like a cautionary religious tale from the word go. Filmed on location in Latvia, Welcome to Mercy is cold, bleak, and austere. The vibe of ancient superstition is overwhelming. There’s nothing like a bunch of severe nuns and an austere convent to stifle any dirty thoughts you may be having. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has that reaction to nuns…perhaps I’ve said too much. When I know I’m supposed to behave myself is when I act the worst.



The writing is deep and thoughtful, a metaphor for original sin that takes a grounded and human approach to the concept in the modern day while juxtaposing it against a place that feels much older. Ruhlin is on point both onscreen and as the writer; this is her film and she owns it. It’s an impressive balancing act on multiple creative fronts.

The pacing is a bit slow, especially in the first half, and those who are looking for in-your-face scares and gore need to look elsewhere. Welcome to Mercy is simply not that kind of movie. It’s all about the deeper meaning and what you take away from it. That’s not to say that it isn’t horror. Don’t get me wrong – this is religious art wrapped up in the vestments of the horror cloth. The possession/exorcism scenes are both effective and shot wonderfully; it’s essentially shown from the inside perspective (both mentally and physically).

The last act makes a nice turn that you’ll appreciate, following a logical course that remains horrifying and emotional. There’s even some twistiness to keep you on your toes in the finish that caps the whole thing off with flair.

Welcome to Mercy is a powerful effort from a talented writer (who hopefully has more work in her) and a director who handles the proceedings with competence and a technical eye. It’s not for the impatient crowd, but if you have patience and a philosophical soul, you’ll be rewarded with a real gem that could be classified as the thinking person’s light possession film.



Movie: 3.5 Star Rating Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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