The Leech - New Release Review
Director: Eric Pennycoff
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Taylor Zaudtke, Rigo Garay, Graham Skipper
Written by: Eric Pennycoff
Produced by: Eric Pennycoff, Scott Smith, Adeline Tomlinson
Cinematography by: Rommel Genciana
Original Score by: Eric Romary
A devout priest welcomes a struggling couple into his house at Christmas time. What begins as a simple act of kindness quickly becomes the ultimate test of faith once the sanctity of his home is jeopardized.
We've all been in that awkward situation haven't we? You go out of your way to help someone out once and then they just won't leave you alone. They abuse your good natured kindness for their own selfish exploits. That's kinda what's going on here in 'The Leech' but a person's patience can only be tested so far. Eric Pennycoff's second feature film plays with the concept that inside every good human being there's a bad one capable of being set free.
Graham Skipper plays Father David, a young(ish) modern thinking, fervent follower of God who just wants to spread the good word and help other people live their best lives. I'm sure this has been said many times before in other reviews of Skipper's work but he really does remind me of Zach Galifianakis. He is the spitting image of him but what's even more bizarre is that his voice is almost identical. Not just the sound of his voice but the cadence too. It was a bit weird and slightly distracting at times actually. Thankfully I'm a fan of Galifianakis so it wasn't a bad distraction. Skipper is a massive standout here and one of the biggest positives from the film. He plays the straight, faithful servant to perfection and when he has to change it up he really goes for it.
Father David's life changes slightly when he invites homeless bum Terry (Jeremy Gardner) to stay in his home for a while until he is able to get on his feet again. His life is turned upside down even further shortly after with the arrival of Terry's partner Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke) who is just as crass and loud as Terry and who accentuates all of Terry's faults and misgivings, of which there are many. The couple slowly chisel away at Father David's kindness, taking over his home with metal music, binge drinking and drugs. And eventually Father David becomes part of their harem, much to his own surprise and shame.
The film's low budget is very evident particularly concerning the lighting, which is almost non existent at times. The acting is a bit over the top but that's part of the film's gimmick, although I did think some of the musical choices didn't quite fit early on, even during some of the more comedic scenes.
I have to admit that I wasn't really enjoying the film that much until about 40 odd minutes in when Father David begins to really lose his shit. It's just after he discovers that he and Terry and Lexi indulged in drunken carnal activities. This is when the film really starts getting interesting and the comical elements are dropped and replaced with sinister tones. There is definitely still an aspect of humour to the storytelling ("I snorted Mama") but it's just done in a more serious way. As the film hits the final stretch Pennycoff and Rommel Genciana also elect to use more interesting shot choices too which really help to highlight the horror of the situation and as Father David's faith is stretched to its limits, so is his sanity.
Despite its low budget 'The Leech' manages to succeed in presenting a powerful story about faith and morality and even though the acting was a bit hammy in the first half, all three leads really kick into gear as the film takes a darker edge.
- Gavin Logan
'The Leech' is available to stream exclusively on Arrow Player right now