Review of Chandler Riggs in 'Mercy'

Chandler Riggs: Future “Scream King” shows us some ‘MERCY’

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.

Chandler Riggs Headshot
Check out Chandler Riggs in ‘MERCY’

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.

WWE Toys: ZOMBIES

NIGHT OF THE LIVING FED: A look at Mattel’s Zombie Line of WWE Toys

UPDATE 11/15/2016: Ringside Collectibles has restocked Paige Zombie! 

Everyone loves his or her horror toys. For adult collectors over the past 20 years, it has been your onslaught of McFarlane Movie Maniacs to Neca’s Cinema of Fear and beyond. As children, we enjoyed The Real Ghostbusters and who could not love when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became the Universal Monsters. In a retro move to recapture the creative imagination of our youth, Mattel recently put out a new line of WWE toys which has proved to be very popular among not just the action figure community but the horror community as well.

Triple H WWE Zombie Toy
This Triple H WWE Zombie would rather eat your face off than hit you with the sledge hammer.

Yes, it seems Zombies are everything these days thanks to The Walking Dead so it is no wonder that the creative, along with WWE, would license this new line to bring a bit of horror to the wrestling ring. Considering the WWE’s PG conservative position they have taken (much to the dismay of us Attitude Era generation – or the classic 80’s & 90’s for that matter), this is a bold move.

Consisting of seven toys in the line, each sports a different articulation to make these wrestlers look like they’ve been hit with a running chainsaw than a stalling suplex. John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Paige and Roman Reigns make up the WWE Zombies line; offering a diversity of detail – some for better and some for worse. Any wrestling fan knows that The Undertaker and Bray Wyatt are staples of any horror related elements found on WWE TV, so to see The Rock with rotting eyes is quite the sight.

For all the controversy involving Paige and her continual suspensions from WWE, her likeness is still one valued by collectors and kids. Hence, if you’re looking for Paige, she is the most difficult to find in the line and even Ringside Collectibles sold out rather quickly. Honestly, the figure isn’t that detailed and perhaps Mattel should have picked a more suitable Charlotte or Sasha Banks to decompose. The same with The Rock – both of these toys are probably the most lackluster of the line. On the opposite end, The Undertaker has purple flames around his ripped tissue forearms and that is beyond cool. A supernatural phenom in your hands!

The best of this line falls to Triple H; doing the best Mortal Kombat Shao Khan look complete with battered and bloodshed articulation. He doesn’t even have a jaw for crying out loud!  Ripped right off. Muscle tissue galore. It’s just a glorious toy. Even a non-wrestling, horror genre fan, would be hard pressed to leave this one sitting on the shelf.

Released in stores two months before Halloween was a great way to stir up the seasonal interest and make them a commodity on the collector shelves. The line has proved so popular that Mattel is releasing a second wave, this time, having WWE talent appear as Mutants!  Whether PG or GORE-ified Rated R Superstars (a little nod to Edge there), there is no doubt that horror is strong across the board and it is refreshing to see the genre respected and incorporated into other entertainment brands.

The Exorcist Television Series Recap

RECAP: Season 1 Episode 1 of ‘THE EXORCIST’ Television Series

TWIST MY HEAD AND MAKE ME FEEL NO PAIN

At 8:55 p.m. on the evening of Friday, September 23rd, 2016, there was one thing I wondered… would I be rushing eagerly to my keyboard to write about this new television series or would I simply have a drink and turn on Netflix. Here I am typing so maybe that is enough of a review but just like the show itself, there is a whole lot more happening here than the obvious.

The clock struck 9 p.m. and now it was time to check out FOX’s new incarnation of William Peter Blatty’s classic The Exorcist. The months leading up to this premiere, I deliberately kept from reading any updates including spoilers, casting, a sneak preview at Horrorhound Weekend, anything, as I wanted to go into this completely fresh. Would FOX, the producers, the writers, the ensemble, actually tread on the holy sacred ground of the 1973 horror standard-bearer? The opening title dropped right into your face following a quick tease of a man looking up into a shantytown-style apartment window with a child screaming. Whenever a show presents itself, be it film or television, that deals with religion and spirituality then I personally feel it is always a gamble. There is no easy-going fun to be had like when you watch Scream Queens, there is no in-your-face mayhem and deeply-knit character drama like The Walking Dead, no it is always an appeal to the viewer to reflect on their own values and the power of faith. Is it our own inner demons that our souls battle or is there truly an evil presence cycling itself in our universe, tempting us to succumb to its strength so it can feed on our weaknesses?

Is it our own inner demons that our souls battle or is there truly an evil presence cycling itself in our universe, tempting us to succumb to its strength so it can feed on our weaknesses?

Let’s begin. This new series quickly establishes the lead character in Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera, Sense8); local Chicago suburb Priest who immediately appeals because instead of being the archetype of righteousness, he is revealed to be very relaxed in his methods and one of the people – and most of all a regular man who has his own life and struggles. During his sermon, the Rance Family – Mom: Angela, Dad: Henry and Daughter: Casey (Hannah Kasulka, The Fosters and Filthy Preppy Teen$) – listen in. Each glimpse revealing tiny nuances into their characters. Father Tomas has a unique ability to perceive visions, and in this case, he is brought into the world of Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels, Flesh and Bone and House of Cards). Father Marcus is involved in his own battle against a demon that has possessed a young boy, Gabriel, down in Mexico City. Whether it is the past, or present, we do not yet know. As I describe these characters, have you noticed yet that I have not mentioned the names Merrin, Karras, or MacNeil? I was wondering too because I didn’t know where this series was fitting – was it entirely new, was it in the same movie universe as the original series, or was it a remake?

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Through Father Marcus and his case with Gabriel, we are treated to a first glance at what 2016 exorcisms look like and it was definitely up there on the creepy scale. Back in Chicago, Angela (played by the lovely Geena Davis, Beetlejuice and The Fly [1986]) is beginning to suspect that something is terribly wrong in her house as she hears noises, voices, and her other daughter Kat (Brianne Howey) is a recluse inside her bedroom. The most humane part of the family that brought me in was the story of the Father, Henry (Alan Ruck, Spin City and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), a man that was successful but has gone through some sort of accident that has now damaged his memory leaving him with a permanent handicap that has shaken the foundation of the Family. Now we begin to see how the Daughters are affected and Angela herself; the stability of the successful and prosperous life she lived suddenly struck down and taken away. It’s enough for one to lose faith wouldn’t you say? Those familiar with the themes of the original would instantly begin to suspect that this Family will be a target for that very reason.

The pace was gradual but aside from playing the horror field smoothly, the show had not yet reeled me into its world by the half hour. Now here’s where it gets interesting and I am going to give show creator Jeremy Slater full credit as Father Tomas looks up previous exorcisms…and….wait for it….a news article acknowledging an exorcism in Georgetown, Washington with the name Chris MacNeil hidden in there. I might have missed the name Regan because I suddenly got so enthralled that this was indeed a sequel spin-off series! As much as I would love Ellen Burstyn or Linda Blair to reprise their roles down the road, I won’t get ahead of myself but rather just enjoy the fact that this was not a remake attempt.

From the Forces of Evil

Father Tomas visits Father Marcus in a retreat institute after seeing a vision of the resolve with Gabriel that saw the possessing demon twist the boy’s head around snapping his neck (a nice realistic “spin” on the famous scene from the original). Turns out that his visions are not a special ability but all a plan from the forces of evil that are preying on Father Tomas. The climactic moment saw Tomas telling Angela he believes her in that there is a demon present and it is his calling from God to help her family. Rumbles come from above and so he and Angela make their way upstairs when the attic ladder drops. Within that instant, with less than ten minutes to go, the tone took a turn and we were now submersed in an atmospherically intense situation. The intensity fueled by Tomas climbing into the attic where you know something evil awaits and the anticipatory reveal that Kat is possessed no doubt kept many viewers in an upright position.

I absolutely love when a show dealing with a controversial subject matter while playing for straight horror not only takes it time building the atmosphere and the plotlines, but then smacks you straight in the face with a swerve that I did not see coming.

*SPOILER ALERT*

It was not Kat at all but the seemingly free and clear Casey that is possessed! WHOA! What!? I am sorry for the spoiler but it is absolutely necessary to convey to you just how epic this was. The evil Casey/demon also plays tricks because she reverts back to normal form just as Angela enters the attic thus making it seem to her Mother that there is no danger but Father Tomas knows otherwise. The show ends with Father Tomas leaving and looking up at the house window where Casey watches from the window. Then it happened….the undeniable, distinct theme that first haunted theatres across North America in 1973. Chills struck me and with Father Tomas walking away knowing of the danger that awaits him, and Father Marcus suiting up and leaving the retreat to seemingly come and help Tomas, this show left such resonance with me (and tons of other viewers from all the tweets I read) that I will be tuning in next week and 100% sold on the potential.

In summation, in a day where television is all about hit-and-miss, and we see shows that are written well like “Bates Motel” and compare to potential horror hitters like last year’s “Damien” (which I personally didn’t get hooked on despite tremendous performances by Barbara Hershey and Scott Wilson), then it could not please me more that I was on the fence for 35 minutes, then drawn in with a classy and respectful nod to the original, and by the end of 60 minutes, sitting on the edge of my seat. That is television folks…and that is true horror.

Follow The Exorcist on the following:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheExorcistFOX
Twitter: @TheExorcistFOX

What did you think of The Exorcist?

Episode #73 - How you doin'?

Episode #73 – How you doin’?

On this episode of the 40oz. Of Horror Podcast: Turkey attacks, Morgan Freeman, convention recaps, & bad impressions.

Episode #72 - The Beer Podcast!

Episode #72 – The Beer Podcast!

On this special episode of the 40oz. Of Horror BEER Podcast Chad and James welcome two special guests to the show, including the “Master” brewer from their favorite local brewery. Discussions range from The X-Files to Nazis to beer science and, of course, Kurt Russell.

While you listen to this beer podcast, head over to Black Acre Brewing Co. and check it out.

Episode #71 — The 5th Annual 40oz. of Horror Awards – The best of 2015

It’s that time of the year again, when we look back at last year… The 40oz. Awards!  Listen now to find out who won the 40 in each category as voted on by you.

Episode #70 – Drink Up, but Don’t Throw up

It was a slow news week, so Chad and James fill the time with a box of sample shooters of vodka.  There’s a bit of horror movie talk and some WWE discussion, so all is not lost.