The horror movie genre continually must reach for new heights, as viewers have been inundated with found-footage films, zombie attacks, and slasher/serial killer themes. But there’s one thing that is far more terrifying than a man in a hockey mask killing sex-crazed teenagers who go camping: reality.
Enter the 2015 film Almost Mercy, the third film from writer/director Tom DeNucci, and one is offered a terrifying glimpse into the culmination of everyday seediness: pedophiles, mental health, childhood bullying. The film follows teenagers Jackson and Emily, almost lifelong friends whose mutual suffering eventually tips the pot on their sociopathic tendencies. But it isn’t the actions of the two teenagers that is most striking about the film; it’s the interwoven stories of key adults in their lives that is truly unnerving.
Straying from the classic horror themes of his previous films, DeNucci takes his inspiration for Almost Mercy straight from reality.
“This film was a big departure from anything I’ve done in the past. My first two projects, Self Storage and Army of the Damned leaned more towards the horror comedy genre,” DeNucci tells the Boston Horror Examiner. “They were light hearted and didn’t really take themselves too seriously. I knew I wanted to make a darker, more serious film.”
And despite its somber message, Almost Mercy certainly doesn’t lack in comedic moments. Danielle Guldin smolders as Emily, adding a natural talent for her character’s razor-sharp wit and sarcastic nature.
“I teamed up with co-writer, B. Dolan. He’s got this really twisted sense of humor, but his writing is so visceral and for lack of a better word – real,” DeNucci states. “It was really cool to see our styles fuse together and it ultimately gave me a chance to tell a much more mature and complete story.”
Featuring acting heavyweights as Kane Hodder (the original Jason Vorhees himself) and Bill Moseley, Almost Mercy is a refreshingly well-made film, something often lacking in straight-to-VOD films. With the focus more so on the teenage protagonists, Kane and Moseley lend their acting talents perfectly as supporting characters in the film.
“Friday the 13th was the first horror movie I ever saw. My friends and I would hit up Major Video, rent those movies and rock them all night,” DeNucci recalls. “That’s why it was so surreal to work with Kane Hodder. You grow up watching the guy’s movies, and then you actually get a chance to direct him in your own. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
A filmmaker simply could not ask for more when it comes to casting, and DeNucci is fortunate to play a pivotal role in selecting his talent.
“I’m always very hands on with casting. I usually have most of my actors cast in my head while I’m writing – I like to tailor make the part for the person I’ve got in mind. I’ve always been fortunate to work with producer Chad Verdi. He has a real knack to bringing in talent to our films. Anne Mulhall of LDI Unlimited cast the project and was able to put together a really unique cast. Rhode Island and the New England area have a lot of talent, so we were able to cast a lot of great local actors – that was all Anne.”
Almost Mercy isn’t a film that aims to play on boogeyman fears or nightmares, but serves as a cautionary tale about society as we know it today.
“There are a lot of scary things happening these days. You can’t go a week without seeing some kind of news story about violence in schools and abuse through cyber bullying,” DeNucci tells BHE. “I think a lot of that inspired us. We’ve all seen vampires and zombies before, but this stuff is scary because it’s real. We never know what people have to go through behind closed doors. Really the message is just to handle people with care – because you never know.”
Viewers will no doubt be left wanting more from Rhode Island native DeNucci, and, luckily, they won’t have to wait long. He’s already hard at work at his next project, due out next year, and projects that continue to address societal deterioration.
“I played the lead villain in a film called Blue Line with Tom Sizemore, Jordan Ladd & Kevin Nash. It was fun to play a bad-guy for the first time – that should be coming out sometime in 2016. B Dolan and I are also back at it again. We’re writing away and are coming up on the finish line. This next one is going to dive inside the world of social media.”
Almost Mercy is available for download on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, and just about anywhere where digital movies are offered. It’s also available on Netflix and DVD, and is a must-see for any fan of the genre.