You’re familiar with actor David S. Hogan, as you’ve enjoyed his work on the NBC-TV series Grimm and the Syfy Channel’s Z Nation. Here, with The Parish, he makes his feature film directing debut. For his leading lady, Hogan chose his fellow Grimm and Z Nation actor, Angela DiMarco, whose 80-plus credits include a wealth of indie shorts and features. Screenwriter Todd Downing, who scribed the role specifically for DiMarco, has also rose through the indie-verse as the writer of several shorts and features.
Since all of these indie-streamers are usually headed with a cast of unknowns, the digital frames need name recognition-inspiration for us to hit the big red streaming button. And an against-the-budget filmmaker (this was shot for a very impressive $300,000, but looks much more expensive) can do no better than securing the services of Bill Oberst Jr., who we’ve most recently enjoyed in Devil’s Junction: Handy Dandy’s Revenge (2019) and The Good Things Devil’s Do (2020). Since Hogan and Downing are both residents of Seattle, the remaining cast is, of course, rounded out by local Seattle actors. And, unlike a lot of the indie streamers we watch here at B&S, all of the actors here are very good in their respective roles.
Making its world premiere at the 2019 Seattle Film Summit, The Parish is a supernatural thriller concerned with Liz (DiMarco) who, after the death of her Afghanistan-deployed husband, moves her daughter from the big city lights of San Diego to a Pacific Northwest enclave — and comes to discover that you can’t runaway from your past. And the military-experienced Father Felix (Oberst Jr.) does his best to help Liz discover the reasons for the ghosts and nuns haunting her and her daughter. And Audrey (Sanae Loutsis), as with any malcontent emo-teen of the 21st century, hates everything: the move, her mom, the house, her school, etc. and so on — with the usual, ungrateful kid bickering with mom. Of course, all of that rebellious brooding makes young Aubrey perfect possession fodder — and her befriending by Caleb (Lucas Oktay), the town’s resident local mystery boy. And before you know it, the creepy, antique crucifixes and photos of nuns are discovered at a church, which awakens the evil — and aren’t all nuns — Sister Beatrice (Gin Hammond) to bring on the fear and dread. And Liz’s zomb-burnt husband keeps showing up for a late night smooch.
As you can see from the trailer, The Parish look great — like A24 and Blumhouse great — as the sound and cinematography are of an award-winning level (the film’s colors are rich and deep). However, the story, while philosophically intelligent — as with the likes of most of the Blumhouse house of horrors, such as the recent You Should Have Left — is a plot where you see the twist coming. Like Becca, the “B” in B&S, said in our review of Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day: “I wish this was 1981 and we weren’t having these be our movies. We deserve way better.” And Becca actually enjoyed Happy Death Day.
And that’s The Parish: it’s professional-glossy, but M. Night Shyamalan twisty-familiar. Now that doesn’t mean The Parish is bad, because it’s not. It’s just Becca-miliar, to coin a term. However, David S. Hogan has more than proven to me he can transition from the front to behind the cameras. I look forward to seeing what he and his equally adept writing partner, Todd Downing, come up with next. And I hope they get an even bigger budget, as they both deserve it.
As of March 16, 2021, The Parish will become available across all streaming platforms courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. You can learn more at the film’s official Facebook page. Writer Maggie Lovitt of Your Money Geek provides additional insights into the making of The Parish courtesy of her recent interview with director David S. Hogan and actor Angela DiMarco.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a screener for this film. That has no bearing on our review.