The Righteous is a glorious bit of religious horror that dares to impress by not only its scares and slow-burn psychological horror, but also by its black and white noir style. Performances are pitch-perfect as well featuring great turns from Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk. The video and audio presentation are wonderful and beautiful and the bonus features are so much fun to watch. Highly Recommended!
Religious horror usually brings a certain quality of scares with possession or otherworldly entities that creep up in the real world and terrorize those around them. In Mark O'Brien's film The Righteous, elements of heaven, hell, and the demons that come with those places conjure up a psychological thrill ride set inside a moody, black-and-white noir landscape that captures those emotions of grief and karma. With a great cast, wonderful performances, and a beautiful-looking image, The Righteous is an original tale in the religious horror genre.
The setup for The Righteous feels familiar, but early on, it's easy to see O'Brien's different take on religion in relation to horror and grief. A lot of times, filmmakers conjure up these metaphorical demons and turn them into the physical manifestations that cause chaos on screen. This is either done by sheer curiosity by the characters or more poignantly, someone having second thoughts about their faith or in this case, a character's conscience that has been eating away at their psyche and mental health.
The Righteous visits Frederic Mason and his wife Ethel (Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk) who were once preachers but are now picking up the pieces of their lives after the loss of their daughter. While Frederic believes this tragedy has drawn his father away from his faith, his priest friend Graham thinks this will bring him closer to the all-powerful one. Sooner rather than later, a young, injured man named Aaron Smith (Mark O'Brien) shows up at Frederic and Ethel's rural doorstep and despite their best judgment, allows him to stay while he heals. As the mood and tone grow sourer by the minute, it's clear that this strange young man is something more than human.
O'Brien never gives too much away, but rather leaves subtle clues as to what exactly haunts Frederic and Ethel from their past. Things are revealed that completely change the narrative and spotlight just why Aaron is present in the first place. This is not a happy film whatsoever and going by the religious standards and Christianity, it's fire, brimstone, and apocalyptic if Frederick and Ethel can't come to terms with their past. The line between fantasy and reality here plays out perfectly with Frederick's mind slowly nosediving around every corner with his conscience battling every inner demon he has, which comes to physical form at times. It's brutal to watch and with its quiet, unsettling tone in black and white, the pacing is unnerving and highly suspenseful.
The noir look makes this film even scarier by utilizing the different shades of light to decay its central characters with every passing minute. Those shadowy figures that cause hairs to stand on end are present and quite effective. It's a beautiful looking movie. The performances are strong by everyone involved and the dialogue-driven horror tale brings up some great questions for debate about the state of religious institutions and mental health related to trauma. The Righteous might take some drastic, different turns here and there, but it's for the best and has made a name for itself in the horror genre.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Righteous conjures its way to Blu-ray via Arrow Video. The sole disc is housed inside a hard, clear plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. The artwork on the sleeve features that black and white noir image of the two main characters with a creepy house and a shadowy violent figure below. The reverse artwork on the case is a puritan, old-timey illustration of horrifying creatures in the woods with weapons. There is an insert for an upcoming release and a booklet that features an essay on the film, along with cast and crew info and tech specs.
The Righteous comes with a great-looking 1080p HD transfer from Arrow Video. The film is in black and white and has a gorgeous noir color palette to it. The black levels are rich, inky, and distinguishable between dark shadows, exterior natural elements, and low-lit corners. The director of photography actually talks about this in the bonus features. The white balance and gray colors look incredible as well with no bleeding or murkiness to show. Each color is well-balanced and nuanced to provide the perfect, seamless image in this setting. There were a couple of scenes that had some heavy banding, but other than that, this is one exquisite noir picture.
This release comes with both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and an LPCM 2.0 option. The 5.1 mix is preferred. Sound effects are nuanced and robust with creepy noises coming through the surround speakers. Supernatural sounds are fantastic and bigger action and horror beats bring a low end of bass with some heft. The score always adds to the suspense and dour tone of the film as well. The atmospheric sounds of nature and the supernatural are great. Dialogue is clean, clear, easy to follow along with, and free of any audio problems.
There are a whopping 301 minutes of extras on this release. Interviews, Q & As with audiences, and a filmmaker roundtable are all included. There is also the entire soundtrack included and a great commentary track.
The Righteous is a gorgeous-looking noir/horror that has some excellent performances and some deep-seated religious scares. It's one that will stick with those who view it. The 1080p HD image and the DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix are both great. The bonus features are wonderful as well and plentiful. Highly Recommended!