Three cliche hot American chicks take a trip to Thailand where, panty-clad and bra-less, they unleash a revenge-seeking poltergeist. This about sums up the plot of Pernicious, a US-Thailand thriller written and directed by James Cullen Bresack. I have to say, this film falls completely short of expectation… even past the point of horribly awesome. Often (especially in the horror genre) “so bad it’s good” is perfectly acceptable. This is not one of those cases. Pernicious is riddled with cliches, facts and scenes that do not quite connect, lower par special effects, and a score that is reminiscent of an old Goosebumps movie or episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. All this neglects needed details and completely overthinks other aspects, such as specific story lines within the plot. This is so unfortunate, considering the concept is completely workable and somewhat original — a hard find these days in the film world, much less horror films, where everything is a remake.
The movie begins with three beautiful girls on a summer in Thailand to teach Thai children the English language. Enter plot hole #1 when later we come to find out that none of them speak a word of Thai and are altogether just not that smart. Makes you wonder why the hell they were chosen for the job. Anyways, introducing the girls: 1) is Rachel (played by Jackie Moore), the ditsy and promiscuous blonde; 2) is Alex (Ciara Hanna), the ditsy yet tom-boyish blonde (hence the gender bendable name); and, finally, 3) Julia (Emily O’Brien), the practical, reserved and of course brunette friend. While exploring the house provided by their employer, they discover a life-sized totem of a small girl completely cast in gold… and go figure, strange things begin to happen. This begins with a drunken night in a Thai club where they meet three handsome guys (luckily enough the guys are British so they are actually able to communicate) whom they take home and collectively “dream” of murdering. I must say this one of the better scenes in Pernicious and take a moment to give props to Jerami Cruise & Anthony Julio for their eccentric use of blood… which I love. Give me Kill Bill style spurts & spatters all day long! Waking the next day, the girls find their guests, the golden statue, and all of their gold jewelry missing — a situation they play off far too nonchalant, ending the discussion to go into town because of their hunger.
After that, the movie becomes somewhat uneventful for awhile, missing multiple opportunities for jilts & jumps from the audience… this is a thriller, yes?… until the statue returns as a living apparition. What could be the creepiest part of Pernicious is portrayed by a small girl in gold body paint and a cheap gold wig which becomes noticeably loose during a struggle with one of the girls like something out a Scary Movie parody. The ghost of the girl leads them to a Thai witch doctor which has me wondering if this whole movie could not have been base in New Orleans. Especially considering the only parts of Thailand shown closely resemble a Louisiana swamp other than the marketplace that could easily be replicated anywhere. This would have also nixed some of those pesky plot flaws previously mentioned.
Finally, after quite a bit of minuscule build up, the back story of the golden statue (or Kumari) is revealed. Just when I think “That’s actually a pretty cool concept”… they take off running with it. A seemingly simple and chilling legend has so many elements added one after another that it becomes muddled and almost confusing. So, overall, I found Pernicious lacking in what I look for in a thriller. If you’re going to make a bad horror film, then do it intentionally for those of us who thoroughly enjoy a good laugh coupled with a good scare. Between the bouncing plot and the inability to hold my attention, I have to rate Pernicious a 1 out of 5 rating. It may be harsh but, in my opinion, it was not worth the watch.
Pernicious (1 / 5)
Pernicious is currently available on Netflix.