The Movie Waffler Arrow Video FrightFest 2022 Review - THE LEECH | The Movie Waffler

Arrow Video FrightFest 2022 Review - THE LEECH

the leech review
A priest quickly regrets a gesture of goodwill to a troubled man.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Eric Pennycoff

Starring: Graham Skipper, Jeremy Gardner, Taylor Zaudtke, Rigo Garay

the leech poster

If you've ever found yourself lumbered with a guest overstaying their welcome you may sympathise with the protagonist of writer/director Eric Pennycoff's The Leech. That said, Father David, the Catholic priest played by Graham Skipper, is ultimately so unlikable that you'll struggle to care about the rod he makes for his back through a backfiring act of charity.

the leech review

In the week before Christmas, Father David delivers an impassioned sermon to a congregation whose numbers you could count on the fingers of one hand. While locking up the church he discovers Terry (Jeremy Gardner) sleeping in one of the pews. Terry claims his girlfriend hasn't showed up and he'll have to spend the night sleeping under a bridge. In an act of Christian goodwill, David takes Terry back to his house for the night and endures an evening of loud heavy metal music, coarse language and drinking from his house guest. But it's only for one night, right?


The next day David hears confession from a young woman who has become pregnant and is considering an abortion, an idea David does his best to dispel from her head. Returning home he finds not only Terry still on his property, but joined by his girlfriend Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke, Gardner's real-life wife). When David hears Lexi speak he puts two and two together and assumes that she's the young woman whose desperate confession he earlier heard (whether two plus two really equals four in this case is left ambiguous). In an attempt to save the unborn, David insists on Terry and Lexi staying under his roof, as long as they abide by their rules.

the leech review

What ensues is a psychological and theological game of cat and mouse between the devout David and the hedonistic Terry. Both men try to induct the other into their way of life, and Terry seems to get the upper hand, even getting David drunk and roping him into doing the sort of things no man of the cloth should be involved in. In this way The Leech is reminiscent of those '90s thrillers like Pacific Heights and Bad Influence, where an unwitting protagonist finds themselves saddled with the unwanted company of a sociopath. The difference here is that the scenario is played for laughs – think a foul-mouthed, horror tinged reworking of What About Bob? – but the generation of those laughs is too often reliant on crude shortcuts like gay panic gags and digs at the easy target of the religious.

the leech review

All three central characters are obnoxious in their own ways, Terry and Lexi with their overbearing crudeness, David with his pompous piousness, but none of them are particularly interesting or unique, despite being well played by the three actors. This makes for a movie that begins to grate by the time it takes an unexpected psychedelic turn in the final act. This shift is somewhat jarring, as Pennycoff hasn't laid enough groundwork to pull off such a detour. Imagine a relatively straight albeit sleazy comedy with a 2001: A Space Odyssey light show tacked onto the end and you'll have some idea of what you're in for. The Leech is probably best experienced with a late night, liquored up festival crowd that can connect to its boozy wavelength. Watching it in my living room I found that like its antagonists, it ultimately overstayed its welcome.

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