PERNICIOUS *** USA / Thailand 2014 Dir: James Cullen Bressack. 90 mins
A trio of hot American girls on a voluntary teaching gig in Thailand disrespect a “spirit house” early on and end up committing atrocities under (apparently) supernatural command after picking up a trio of leery British dudes from a nightclub. Thai location filming adds considerable production value to this slick, stylish flick, which offers a unique variant on the kind of vengeful Asian ghosts with which we became familiar in the early 2000’s.
The gold-coated spirit at the core of the mayhem lurks on ceilings and at the foot of your bed like some kind of malevolent, pint-sized Shirley Eaton, while the tone shifts unpredictably from paranormal territory to a graphically gruesome torture-movie interlude in which eyes are gouged, teeth pulled and toenails extracted with bloody enthusiasm. Clichés abound – yep, the old bathroom mirror jump scare is back! – but it is engagingly acted, atmospheric and has the courage of its own convictions to not cop out at the end. An unusual contemporary horror film with all-female protagonists, its biggest strength is the solid, strong, likeable central characters.
Review by Steven West