Forgiving God (2022)

Aaron Dunbar, the co-director (with Jason Campbell) and writer of this film asked me to check this out but said, “It’s a faith-based film,” as if that would make me immediately look at it in a different light. If anything, it made me want to watch it more, as his A Wish for Giants somehow combined Christian faith and cryptozoology into one narrative and I was there for all of that.

Forgiving God grabbed me from the first moment, as two teens play with a spirit board and conjure up someone trapped in hell, a moment so upsetting that it causes Jon Moore (Matthew Utley) to slash his wrists and nearly die.

Is this where I confess and say that I have an entire Ouija-film-related Letterboxd list and page of this site?

Jon’s had a rough life. He’d begged his father to stop at a tourist stop when he was just nine years old and while in the bathroom, a gunman killed his entire family. Raised in an abusive foster system, he has no need for the church that his new foster parents want him to attend. He also does repeated hair flips when he’s angry, like all nascent goths should.

Yet Jon finds a friend in the woods — a Native American girl named Isaka (Alexandria Sertik, who was in A Wish for Giants) — who protects him not just from a bear — literally one of my favorite scenes in any movie in 2022 — but teaches him that faith extends beyond the church pew — Dean Cain plays the pastor — and can be part of your real life and authentic self. That said — she has a tragedy of her own to share with him before the movie ends.

There’s also a moment where a rock concert and a song that literally speaks about forgiving God inspires Jon to be saved. Isaka’s words are something he will remember long after he grows old: “Everything happens for a reason, even those things which are detestable. They shape us into who we’re meant to be.”

Made in Armstrong and Indiana Counties in PA — Pennsylvania filmmakers can encompass Romero’s zombies and a Suburban Sasquatch while Shane Black, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Rusty Cundieff and Rowdy Herrington are from Pittsburgh, Steven E. de Souza and M. Night Shyamalan are from Philly, the Farrelly brothers are from Phoenixville, Joseph L. Mankiewicz was from Wilkes-Barre — this is a low budget but high concept film that doesn’t shy at all away from its message. It never feels like it’s pushing you or screaming in your face about God, which makes it that much more effective.

Lord knows I struggle with whatever reality is, but that doesn’t mean that I should look down on this movie for being faith-based. Instead, I really enjoyed its earnestness and found that it’s a fine follow-up to A Wish for Giants.

To learn more, visit the official Facebook page for Forgiving God.

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