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Welcome to Mercy

Written by Karin Crighton

Released by IFC Midnight

Welcome To Mercy Poster

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

Kristen Ruhlin as Madaline
Lily Newmark as August
Ieva Seglina as Alyona

Welcome To Mercy 01 Welcome To Mercy 02


When her estranged father grows seriously ill, single mother Madaline (Kristen Ruhlin) returns to Latvia with her daughter Willow (Sophia Massa) to say goodbye. Unwelcome by her mother, she strains to manage her resentment and discomfort. When the local priest comes for morning prayers, something inside her finally breaks loose in a fit of violent stigmata. Desperate to protect Willow from the supernatural torment she's battling, Madaline retreats to a secluded island convent. The sisters there pledge to help her, but as the days pass and the whispers grow louder, she is convinced she cannot escape the darkness following her.

Kristen Ruhlin's second writing credit is the cure for the dreadful hollowness of The Nun. Twisting, brooding, panicked, Welcome to Mercy keeps the watcher nervous and entranced. There's so much packed into the scenes, I rewound to watch several scenes over again so I didn't miss a detail. It paces itself without being slow; is murky without being impenetrable.

The assembled cast is exceedingly talented, there's not a weak link among them. There’s a bit of an oddly shoehorned hint of lesbian attraction between another Sister and Madaline which could be gratuitous, but looking back it can also could be a hint at her repressed desperation for female love and affection. Or it could just be an attempt to sexy up some nuns. It doesn’t completely work, but it doesn’t harm the film either, so I’ll call it a draw.

Welcome To Mercy 03 Welcome To Mercy 04

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The editing and score are just beautiful. Once the truth is exposed, the film dances back and forth between revelations of horror and sorrow. Cinematographer Igor Kropotov has a keen eye for half-lighting the scenes balanced between polarities. Madaline is perched between salvation and damnation at every turn; sometimes beaming in a shadowy room or entirely shrouded indoors while the sun shines outside, but never clear of her demons.

Welcome to Mercy is enjoyable, there's no way to express how good it feels to see a movie in 2018 that you can't predict from the beginning. It's creepy, it's heartwarming, it's suspicious, it's encouraging, it's everything horror can be but has forgotten.

And Latvia. Who knew?

Welcome To Mercy 07 Welcome To Mercy 08


Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Karin Crighton
Staff Writer | Lunatic
Karin doesn't know anything about movies, but has a lot of time and opinions to yell into the void. When she's not directing plays in and around NYC, she's watching every horror movie on every streaming service. And probably talking to a cat.
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