There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Ireland-set creature feature, The Perished. It’s just that there is a crucial disconnect between what the movie wants to be and what it ends up being. The film doesn’t stand by the courage of its convictions.
A pre-title card informs us that between 1980 and 2017, many Irish women burdened with unwanted pregnancies faced a terrifying fate. Often, they were cast out from their families, and many were remanded to Magdalene Laundries (mental institutions). Others felt compelled to travel to foreign countries to obtain an abortion. Young Sarah is one such woman.
Bubbly and beautiful, Sarah (Courtney McKeon) is in love with her boyfriend, Shane (Fiach Kunz, who looks as though he could be one of the Hemsworth brothers), likes to hang out with her friends, and enjoys cutting loose every now and then. Unfortunately, her home life isn’t so rosy. Her mother, Elaine (Noelle Clarke), is a religious zealot in the Margaret White vain and her father, Richard (Conor Lambert), while kind and understanding to his daughter, is powerless in the wake of his domineering wife.
“…Sarah is…forced to confront her abortion alone…Almost immediately, she starts to hear the soft cries of babies a la The Tell-Tale Heart.”
Not long after Shane blindsides her with the “I need space” line, Sarah’s parents uncover her pregnancy, and Sarah is swiftly exiled from her home and forced to confront her abortion alone. Fortunately, Sarah has a gay BFF in Davet (Paul Fitzgerald), who rescues her and brings her to recuperate in his parent’s countryside mansion.
Almost immediately, she starts to hear the soft cries of babies a la The Tell-Tale Heart. Furthermore, Sarah experiences spontaneous bleeding and suffers excruciating and mysterious tooth pain. Is it all in Sarah’s head, a psychosomatic coping mechanism following a traumatic event? Or is there something more sinister at play in the house?
McKeon is excellent at conveying the lost innocence that befalls her character after she is so cruelly abandoned. Her wide-eyes express the desire of a wounded soul searching for guidance but encountering only fear and uncertainty. McKeon allows us to appreciate Sarah’s genuine confusion and apparent hysteria deeply.