Movie Review – Brimstone

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Movie Review – Brimstone

Category : Movie Review

Director: Martin Koolhoven

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Emilia Jones

Year: 2016

The most common critique of Brimstone is that it’s too brutal with too few breaks, which is something even fans of the film can’t argue; you had better be ready for a walk through hell, with bitter violence every step of the way.  I found this particularly true in the fourth chapter; the movie is broken into quarters, with each being a separate period of time with its own evil story, connected to the over-arcing tale through the main character.  In the last section, the violence does feel overused, out of place, and a bit tired, since we had already seen so much, and the film is not short, you should know.  But while I agree with detractors to a point, I will stand by the other three chapters, which I think are among the most stunningly stomach-turning I have ever seen, both in blood and in degradation.  Brimstone is shocking, well-made, and disgustingly captivating, missing only a strong ending to make it absolutely spectacular.

Somewhere in the wild but calming American West, Liz attempts to make a new life with a loving husband in a small, God-fearing community.  She has a stepson, a young daughter, and a reputation as a skilled midwife, and so is valuable to her family and her town, even when her inability to speak blocks her from deep relationships with those she helps.  Her church has just hired a new reverend, and when he walks through the door, Liz understands that her old life has come back to find her, even way out here where she thought she would be safe.  The events of the next days will destroy her happiness, and, over the course of four total segments, we begin to understand what it is that drove her, changed her, haunts her, and will ultimately force her to face her greatest fear.

Other than the final chapter, which I did think was brutal without a purpose, or perhaps simply unbalanced, I enjoyed every minute of Brimstone, and I think it is definitely overlooked due to its length, its content, and its almost inhuman disregard for what audiences can withstand.  Death and torture wait around every corner, but this is a horror tale told with utter realism, without a detail avoided to clean up the picture and allow us to get comfortable.  At times you’ll feel sick from what you’re watching, which turned many away, I completely understand that, but I was able to keep seated, and by the end I appreciated the honesty and the metaphor that I had just seen balanced in a way that not many can achieve.  Fanning isn’t my favorite actress, but she was solid in this part, wasn’t asked to do too much, and was bolstered by others in the other sections very well.  As a villain, Pearce was phenomenal, I could not wait for him to be maimed and destroyed, it was that powerful a role.  I really liked the way the time line was broken up, I thought that was smart without becoming a gimmick, and the music will haunt you for days, keeping the overbearing sense of dread upon your shoulders far longer than you want it there.  I’m sure this sounds like torture to some, and I’m sure it would be, but, for those who want to be immersed in this kind of dramatic pain and bloody ambiance, Brimstone is what you’ve been looking for.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆