Pernicious goes with the good ol’ entitled, culturally insensitive Americans-abroad set-up to tell its story; just how many of these films have we seen by now? This time we’re in Thailand.
After an opening replete with aerial-pans (these film-makers LOVE them) and ill-fitting music – the dialogue recording must have been botched here because all the ‘actresses’ mouths keep on moving regardless – we meet the girls. After arriving at their digs, we learn that the blondes are sisters and the brunette a friend. The brunette feeds us the exposition – they’re here for summer, to teach kids. One blonde sister is glum and derisory, and the other is cheerful and optimistic.
Having concluded that their digs are not ‘completely shitty’, the girls uncover a golden statue of a girl on the top floor, and partake in a drawn-out conversation about it before deciding to sleep. This is as much characterisation as you get in Pernicious; but believe me, it’s only the beginning of many overlong, repetitious dialogues. Not only does Pernicious have dreadfully written dialogue, it has dreadfully written dialogue delivered by porno-grade actresses.
The next day sees the girls out patronising the locals before going to a club in the evening. They encounter some pugnacious British men in this club, and shoo them away. However, after quaffing ‘fish bowls’ the girls are soon sat bending elbows with these fine fellows, after previously glum blonde sister reasons that ‘they’re nice, and they’re cute, and they’re males.’ Later back at the house brunette friend knocks into the golden girl statue, and all hell breaks loose. But not really.
With such little build up to the film’s main ‘possession’ event, viewers might easily miss the causal relation. The next scene transition is entirely clunky. So egregious is this problem that I really have to wonder whether writer/director James Cullen Bressack has ever even heard of the word suspense.
The next morning each character agrees that the terrible, prolonged violent incident in which they were all involved is probably explained away as some kind of collective astro-planing incident brought on by too much liquor.
But the golden girl statue is now gone. Jinkies! From here on out everyone’s in sleuth-mode. As a whole, Pernicious presents its plot in a confusing way. The overall connection between each new plot-point is flimsy, and the conveyance so meagre, it’s difficult to fully understand or care what the filmmakers intentions were.
The other issue with Pernicious, besides the dialogue in itself being terrible, is the fact there’s too much of it. This kills all pacing. As a result, you have a 90-minute film (aside from the po-faced section of violence, all of which happens in a dispassionate, suspense-free row) where all the characters really do is go from point a to b, ask questions, scream a bit, and make bumbling attempts at figuring out what’s going on.
Although regimented, Pernicious does feature some enthusiastic blood-letting, but it’s not enough to make this amateurish production anywhere near enjoyable or worthwhile.