Thine Ears Shall Bleed Image

Thine Ears Shall Bleed

By Sumner Forbes | July 9, 2024

The woods are scary. In horror films, nothing positive ever comes out of journeys into the wilderness. Dark, dense, and filled with unknown (and often unseen) terrors, they are the perfect setting for all manner of horror classics. It’s a leap to say writer/director Ben Bigelow’s thriller Thine Ears Shall Bleed, co-written with William Bigelow, will join the canon of classic horror flicks. It does, though, make fantastic use of setting and American myth to show that effective genre films don’t need tentpole-level resources.

Reverend Ezekiel Thatcher (Andrew Hovelson) is a 19th-century preacher taking his wife, son, and daughter into the American wilderness. They’re on a mission to retrieve an organ to be used for his congregation, and they’ll have to lug the organ around the American West in their covered wagon. His daughter Abigail (Lea Zawada) will be the organist in question, although she has more earthly desires to move to New York and see Broadway shows, much to her father’s dismay. Ezekiel’s son Luke (Duke Houston) is more dedicated to his father’s mission, while his wife Sarah (Hannah Cabell) is dutiful, never questioning the supposed wisdom of the good Reverend.

The first night they take shelter, their horses go missing…”

Early in the film, the family comes upon a fork in the road. Unsure which path to take, they follow the one with enticing flowers. Wrong choice! The first night they take shelter, their horses go missing, all but stranding their wagon. They soon begin to hear an eerie yet entrancing chorus originating from the depths of the forest. Convinced that it’s the voice of God, Ezekiel subsequently abandons his plans for the organ. Instead, he chooses to construct a church in the middle of the wilderness because of divine intervention. It’s at this point that anyone with a brain can figure out that the heavenly voices may not be so heavenly after all. An impromptu visit from a strange, self-proclaimed botanist only increases the sense of dread.

The ultimate test for any horror movie is the simple question of whether it serves up an adequate number of scares. Thine Ears Shall Bleed succeeds in this regard. It’s unlikely to give a seasoned viewer of the genre any nightmares, but there’s enough here to keep discerning audiences engaged. Bigelow manages to accomplish this largely through practical effects and the building of tension, proving he’s a filmmaker with a keen sense of the nuances of horror filmmaking.

All that said, there are superficial aspects that make it more difficult to suspend one’s disbelief. The beard Hovelson has in the film looks unconvincing, and there are occasions when the cast breaks into modern accents. These may seem like minor quibbles, but they add up over 90 minutes. Still, Thine Ears Shall Bleed is scarier than one might expect and more than fulfills its role as a creepy horror flick that takes place in the woods. Just remember to avoid following any strange sounds you may hear the next time you’re making s’mores in the woods.

Thine Ears Shall Bleed (2024)

Directed: Ben Bigelow

Written: Ben Bigelow, William Bigelow

Starring: Lea Zawada, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Hannah Cabell, Andrew Hovelson, Duke Huston, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Thine Ears Shall Bleed Image

"…fulfills its role as a creepy horror flick..."

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