A lot of people are scared of monsters that go bump in the blackest of night. Ask a woman what she is most afraid of , and you will probably get an answer that is less supernatural- and more day-to-day threats of violence or control. Around the world in 2020, a woman’s reproductive right to choose is still heavily contested. The word abortion is spoken in whispers, and fiercely debated by politicians. When does life begin? Who chooses? Grief, guilt, and internal conflict are the themes in Paddy Murphy’s brilliant horror commentary The Perished.
Sarah Dekker (played by the talented Courtney McKeon) is a beautiful young college student in the middle of taking classes and dealing with a breakup. After a night of partying she realizes she is pregnant and has to make one of the hardest decisions a person can make. She needs to decide if she is ready for a child- she has less than supportive parents, no place of her own, and probably a bundle of debt. She decided to have an abortion and is almost immediately shunned by her mother and thrown out of her house. Luckily she has an extremely kind and supportive friend in Davet (portrayed by powerhouse Paul Fitzgerald) who agrees to take a road trip to a parochial house turned B&B to recover and get some clarity. Unbenounced to either, the house is the site of a mass grave dedicated to deceased infants.
The Perished is filmed and set in Ireland. It wasn’t until 2018 that the country overturned its ban on abortion. Ireland is a city seeped in both traditional Catholicism and a growing progressive movement of young people. Tumultuous arguments over political policy helped to bring women’s struggles to have full bodily autonomy to the forefront of the Irish landscape. Before the ban, women were forced to travel across the border, usually to the UK, if they needed an abortion procedure or they would face criminal consequences. This meant for low income women, or women without a strong support system would often be forced to give birth. This is traumatizing for everyone involved and sometimes women would feel like they were trapped and would make terrible choices to try and regain their lives back, such as abandoning their child or worse. The most innocent beings on earth are children, however there is a valid need to discuss the trauma on a woman forced to give birth as well. While Ireland has now removed criminal consequences, societal consequences remain worldwide.
The Perished is a horror movie in every sense of the word, it has terrifying paranormal elements, intense SFX with bloody body horror, all on top of the horror that exists when someone is filled with grief and guilt. What starts off as a slow burn turns into a nightmare that works as both a high quality horror film and a necessary societal commentary. You should leave this move feeling uncomfortable. Murphy has done an excellent job of creating the perfect blend of waking and sleeping terror while asking important questions about women’s rights. This film will have audiences re-examining what it means to have bodily autonomy and the consequences of suppressing it in 2020.
The Perished is produced by The Horror Collective. Watch the Trailer here: