Reviewed by Patrick Cooper: Is there anything more terrifying than a psychopath in love? They’re delusional, manipulative, and just one restraining order away from a homicide. Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction always comes to mind when reflecting on this particular brand of movie villain, but as director Anthony DiBlasi proves in his thriller Missionary, there sure as hell is something much more terrifying than a psycho in love. And that would be a religious psycho in love.
Dawn Olivieri (House of Lies) stars as Katherine, a salvage yard worker recently separated from her husband. She’s doing her best to raise their son Kesley on her own, but when it comes to matters like football practice, she just can’t cut it. As chance would have it, two young Mormon missionaries ride up while her and Kesley are attempting to throw some passes. One of the guys, Elder Brock (Mitch Ryan), just happens to have one helluva an arm and offers to give the kid some pointers. This hunky man of God instantly intrigues Katherine and before you know it, they’re shacking up.
Sleeping with a woman out of wedlock (a married woman, no less) is obviously a sin in the Mormon faith. But it’s not as simple as a lusty young missionary struggling with his faith or rebelling against his upbringing. Brock sees his encounter and subsequent fling with Katherine as God’s calling. According to his Mormon calculations, he’s been presented with Katherine and Kesley so he can start his “eternal” family – whether they want to or not.
Brock is a terrific, wholly horrifying character. Writers Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley definitely created a balanced villain whose religion doesn’t dictate his evil deeds per se, but it does make him infinitely creepier. There’s something very Stepford-like about Mormon missionaries in their uniform white button-downs and black slacks. Throw in a headstrong belief that God wants you to essentially own a woman and child, and you’ve got some seriously scary shit going down.
Thankfully, Brock’s Mormon rants are never over-the-top or silly, which they could easily be. There are no cheap jabs at the Mormon faith either – Brock is simply a highly disturbed creep who latches onto one small piece of Brigham Young’s word, twists it to suit his needs, and takes it to the bank. The blood bank! He was obviously psycho before converting and this Mormon mission provides him with a violent outlet for his rage. Possibly the most disturbing part is how damn believable Brock is.
Katherine and her husband Ian are not as interesting as a murderous Mormon (who is?), but they both go through some engaging turns, emotion-wise. When we first meet Ian (Kip Pardue), he’s unlikable. Instead of helping his son gear up for football tryouts, he’s gotta ditch out for some work-related bullshit. By the end of the film, he’s a very sympathetic character. There’s one scene in particular – a fantastic comeuppance scene set in a restaurant that gave me serious goose bumps – where I was really cheering the guy on.
On the flipside, when we first meet Katherine, she’s weighed down with hardships. Her mother’s just died, she’s going through a tough separation, and she sucks at football. Then her horniness gets the best of her and she becomes a little indifferent. She gets so tuckered out from knockin’ boots with Brock that she manages to nap through her son’s birthday. We’re on her side again by the end though. So, it’s cool how her and Ian go through these sympathetic transitions and aren’t just straight-lined, boring protagonists.
I really enjoyed DiBlasi’s directorial debut, Dread (that was unavoidable alliteration, sorry). After cutting his chops as a producer for Clive Barker, he’s definitely coming into his own as a director. I had the pleasure of visiting the set of his upcoming film Paymon (which is not about a Jamaican bookie) and for the short time I was there I witnessed some really exciting stuff. Look for a write-up on that soon.
With Missionary, DiBlasi has crafted a tightly wound downward spiral of infidelity, violence, and small-town adversity that’s a model of restraint. He knows when to hit all the right, violent beats and when to pull back and let the characters and drama play out organically. It all culminates in a painfully tense climax within a labyrinthine salvage yard that surpasses the film’s humble budget. As a huge fan of the erotic thriller genre, Missionary touched me in all my dirty parts. It’ll certainly make you think twice about those well-dressed Bible bearers canvassing your neighborhood.
Missionary is playing the Fantasia International Film Festival July 25 and 26. Check it out if you’re lucky enough to be there. If not, keep your eyes peeled for a release!