‘The Righteous’ (2021): A Fantasia Festival Review:

If you’re looking for an exciting addition to the horror genre, The Righteous nails it.With complex themes and a character-driven storyline it manages to keep the audience curious til the end.

Our review of The Righteous, at #FantasiaFest is live now!

Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) stands in a doorway in The Righteous
Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) stands in a doorway in The Righteous

Right from the start Mark O’Brien’s The Righteous adds a touch of eerie tension that builds til the end of the movie. Its suspenseful plot and character-driven storyline offer vulnerable emotions lined up with intimate lighting that captures the actor’s performance. When themes like agony and battling with faith are mixed into this bag, they unravel secrets and unnatural entities. If you’re familiar with horror, you know that these things normally do not want to be revealed. Fantasia Festival introduces a new and thrilling addition to the horror genre. The Rigehtous is an agonising tale of an ex-priest who is confronted with his past.

When Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) and his wife, Ethel’s (Mimi Kuzyk) daughter passes away tragically their life changes. A stranger visits them with a bruised knee in the middle of the night. This mysterious stranger introduces himself as Aaron Smith (O’Brien). Frederic pleads with Ethel to allow the man to stay the night. Ethel believes that they should call the cops. Frederic wakes in the middle of the night and sees that Aaron is reading a bible. Aaron uses this time to ask about his family and the death of his daughter.

Frederic wakes up the next day to find Ethel and Aaron have already acquainted themselves. She has even changed her mind about asking him leave the house. Their sudden closeness makes Frederic suspicious. He begins to believe that Aaron has an ulterior motive for being in their home. Eventually he realizes that the mysterious stranger is the son that he abandoned to become a priest. Haunted by his past, the ex-priest must face the consequences of his sin. The only way to do this is by killing the son he abandoned. This agonizing truth daunts him. 

Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk as Frederic and Ethel Mason in The Righteous
Mark O’Brien and Mimi Kuzyk as Aaron Smith and Ethel Mason in The Righteous

The Righteous draws the audience into the spectacular world of Newfoundland. It also dives deep into the characters emotional vulnerability with black and white imagery. Each of the characters deals with grief and faith in their own way. Frederic is troubled by his past and the son that he left behind to fulfil his duties to God. He has been struggling with this choice since he left. Ethel is mourning the death of their adopted daughter. She uses Aaron as a replacement to fill the gaps in her heart.

Aaron’s eerie presence in the house brings unnatural thrill both to Frederic, and the movie itself. When Aaron begins to unravel, however, Frederic becomes uncomfortable. Aaron begs his father to confront his sins. If he doesn’t he will harm Ethel. O’Brien plays a complex yet haunting character who changes the plot every moment he is on screen. This results in a narrative that twists and turns until the very end. . 

The black and white cinematography compliments the disturbing themes of The Righteous well. The background lights dim and the music intensifies during confrontations between Frederic and Aaron. This cues easily tell us that something haunting will happen soon. Czerny, O’Brien and Kuzyk’s performances bring a nuanced and complex narrative to the screen in the most unforgettable way. 

If you’re looking for an exciting and timeless addition to the horror genre The Righteous nails it. With its complex themes and slow-burning character-driven storyline it manages to keep the audience curious til the end. It references the burdens of faith and the wrath of God for committing sins. This agonizing tale of a troubled man who must deal with the death of his daughter and the abandonment of his son is thrilling and deserves a watch. You might even find that it brings up memories of your own past.

Find more of our Fantasia Festival coverage here!

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Nuha Hassan is a film/tv writer and reviewer. She is a Staff Writer at Film Cred and Off Colour Org. Apart from writing about film, she is a Video Editor at Dead Central. She studied Master of Media at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

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