Gloria (Nina Kiri) was kidnapped by a bizarre wood cult and forced to be a part of their deadly ritual.  Years after the traumatic event, she, her mother, and her girlfriend, Joan (Jorja Cadence) try to move on.  When Gloria is kidnapped again, Joan must find her, but how exactly is she connected to all of this? Is she just a loyal girlfriend?  And why has Gloria been targeted this second time?  During this long night of incarceration, Gloria starts to undergo disturbing bodily changes.

Part Body-horror and part mystery, this film keeps the audience guessing until the final scene.  There are a few plot twists that make this otherwise gross and disturbing movie fun to experience.  Drab, yet colorful at the same time, the look of this movie is beautiful.  The look of the movie balances a warm and comforting aesthetic with something cold and terrifying. The cabin in the woods motif is a time-honored horror trope that can take audiences back to those classic creepy vibes of Evil Dead and Friday the 13th.  What is remarkable about The Heretics is that with the added cult imagery, it has its own merit to stand on and doesn’t let the audience stay in that retro realm too long.

The body-horror aspects were gross – finish your snacks before the midway part of this movie!  Fans who like to see horrible transformations to bodies in ways that were never meant to happen in nature will enjoy this.  The effects are not The Fly level of intensity, but they work nonetheless.

The movie may not work if the audience can’t feel sympathy for Gloria, and Nina Kiri’s performance succeeds in being vulnerable, yet not cloying.  Her chemistry with Jorja Cadence as Joan is realistic, which makes the outcome of the plot more captivating.  Joan is a bitch whose bad side you do NOT want to get on.  Even the kidnapper, Thomas (Ryan Barrett), is played with integrity, and his character has nuanced and relatable motivations.

The movie starts to drag a little bit at about the hour mark, with a lot of the climatic mysteries being revealed in a drawn-out and frustrating way.  But, if you like gross-out body horror, cabins in the woods and cultists, and can suffer through the middle and make it to the end, this movie pays off.

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