Spotlight on Chandler Riggs: Why this direct-to-DVD King Adaptation of MERCY is worth the watch
It’s hard being a child actor in the entertainment industry no doubt and surely harder to be a good one. With Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programming, many child actors get stereotyped into one clichéd image or another. Children characters are often all the more annoying and whether watching as a child, a teenager, or an adult, you can’t help but shake your head in frustration. You have your rare gems among the bunch and, with specific view on the horror genre, only one name stands out: Danielle Harris. She entered the scene with a top billed spot in Halloween 4 and 5; solidifying her status as a future scream queen and showing that not all children are depicted as bratty or cookie-cutter fodder. Then comes the television phenomenon in the Fall of 2010 that continues to this day. The Walking Dead introduced the world to characters out of a major graphic novel series. The show introduced us to Chandler Riggs. While an entire article can be written on the importance of the Carl Grimes character (a personal favorite), it is the young adult portraying him that takes center stage.
Having parents who work in the entertainment industry (William and Gina Ann), the now 17 year-old Riggs was well suited, and protected, once he got into the business but his qualifications and abilities to be there speak for themselves. Born June 27th, 1999 out of Atlanta, Georgia, Riggs would not enter the spotlight until his first bit into horror as a boy in the 2006 feature Jesus H. Zombie. Then with the introduction of The Walking Dead, not since Danielle Harris has a child actor rose to such prominence and admiration among many fans, and their natural ability to play realism on the silver screen is what separates both from the rest. The horror genre also deals with mature subject matter so its takes an extra gifted talent to handle that responsibly and play to that level respectably. Riggs does that and more, especially as The Walking Dead seasons continue for his character Carl, and so too did he three years ago in this little horror film called Mercy.
Keep reading after the trailer of MERCY
The supernatural elements of witchcraft and demonism have been featured in countless movies, so it is difficult in this modern era to make one that actually feels fresh. Directed by Peter Cornwell, this film seemingly shot somewhere between 2012 and 2013 found its North American release in the Fall of 2014. Mercy could easily have been a title that came out and sat as a dust collector but it wasn’t to be, especially since the storyline is an adaptation of Gramma by the legendary name of Stephen King; the story featured as part of his short-stories collection called Skeleton Crew.
Mercy is not just a clever title
The generic title Mercy is actually revealed to not be a cash-in for just a strong sounding word, but is actually the name of the grandmother character that young George (Riggs) is very close to. The storyline plays out that in 1967, Mercy was subject to witnessing her husband take an axe to himself while she cared for a small baby. Flash forward to modern day, George, along with his older brother Buddy (Joel Courtney, Super 8, The Messengers) and Mother Rebecca (Frances O’Connor, The Conjuring 2, Bedazzled) are forced to move back to Mercy’s home and care for her while she is in her final stages of life. No longer the healthy and caring adult that was able to guide George; it is now his responsibility to sit by her side and inject her with the necessary medication to keep her at peace. Just one thing though – the other residents of the old age home where Mercy (Shirley Knight, As Good As It Gets, If These Walls Could Talk) was at were scared of her, and often would keep a bible near to ward off any danger. With decay just touching the surface of her skin, and strange mannerisms, the film slowly starts inserting the creep factor as the audience gets to understand that Mercy may have more going on inside of her than one might think. As his family is in danger, and some members are hurt or killed including Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story, The Practice) as a long-time family friend, it is up to George to uncover the mystery behind his grandmother’s behavior and face up to his demons.
The traditional King elements of story structure and something lurking beneath the surface are all present, and while the film was shot on a modest budget, the special effects and bloodshed are never presented as more than they should be – angles, lighting and sheer cinematic effect take priority over explicit visuals. This is credit to the film, including the mythical Death Wolf beast which is shown only through shadow shapes and glowing yellow eyes; effective and leaves the viewer enthralled by the danger rather than risk exposing a limited effect and ruining the moments. The narrative structure, including flashbacks, flows smoothly and never does it feel dragged out (as some King material can so credit to Screenplay Writer Matt Greenberg there).
The most satisfactory bit is that it has a distinct beginning, middle and end – nicely wrapped up within George’s world and never once does the film stray from his perspective and importance to the story. If there was only one complaint to be had, it would be in the climax where George must decide what sacrifices he has to make to free Mercy’s soul from the demon Hastur; corrupting or purifying his own fate in the process. The understanding is there but the sequence gets confusing especially when there is a gross vomiting of blood or other supernatural matter that winds up all over George. In retrospect, it does make sense how he plans to evade the evil that is now seeping into him but on first watch, it leaves a little bit to question. The chill factor is only effective as the music that accompanies it and the soundtrack did not disappoint with atmospheric tones and resonance courtesy of Reza Safinia. Another reason this film is effective? It’s Producer! Jason Blum is no stranger to horror and likely had a hand in keeping this on track too with his long list of credits including ‘Insidious’ and Paranormal Activity.
All-in-all, Mercy is definitely one to check out if the creepy-supernatural genre is your cup of tea and the film is clearly as popular on the rental shelves as it is thanks to Riggs involvement. This was Riggs first leading role and to demonstrate the understanding of the emotional levels that he had to show in the film – loss of family, loss of surroundings, loss of self – is a lot to ask for a younger teen at the time yet he nails every moment. Between this film, The Walking Dead, and the new thriller Keep Watching, there is a strong future ahead for the one day “Scream King” Chandler Riggs, having just graduated as well from High School and accepted into Auburn University in Alabama.
Having had the opportunity to meet Chandler Riggs twice (class act, professional and a polite as all hell kid might I add), I told his Father just a little over a month ago at Horrorhound Weekend, that Chandler “has redefined the performance standards for any young adult actor now and in the future.” This writer stands by his words. Riggs has already been nominated and won multiple Young Artist, Satellite and Saturn Awards for his performance on The Walking Dead’ so have mercy on anybody that thinks anything other than he will be a name in the genre for a long time to come.
William Riggs (and Chandler) have an official merchandise website www.chandlerriggs.com where you can purchase personalized authentic autographed photos with proceeds supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, Make A Wish Foundation, National Kidney Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and more. You can also join William and visit the locations of The Walking Dead; learn more by visiting www.dadszombieroadtrip.com.