THE SERMON (2018) BY DEAN PUCKETT

Reviews

Director: Dean Puckett
Writer: Dean Puckett
Year: 2018
Starring: Molly Casey, Emilia Copeland, Grant Gillespie, Oliver Monaghan, Denise Stephenson

Synopsis:
In an isolated church community in the English countryside, a powerful hate preacher prepares to deliver a sermon to his flock, but his daughter has a secret that could destroy them all.

Review:
A melancholic tone pervades through the opening establishing shots of a craggy, desolate landscape before THE SERMON begins in quite a literal sense with a preacher (Oliver Monaghan) delivering a damning tale to his isolated community.

We hear an attack on immorality and on homosexuality as the preacher goes on with his damning stereotypical rhetoric before we bear witness to hypocritical and brutal judgement on those deemed abominations, courtesy of God’s children.

Powerful and intelligently composed, within the opening five minutes writer/director Dean Puckett has presented to us a tale about ignorance, hatred and perhaps equally as damaging, about conformity and the betrayal of ones own feelings and ideas. Or so it would seem but there is something darker lurking underneath.

If the script is to be commended, then so too is the cinematography, courtesy of Ian Forbes. THE SERMON through the utilisation of 35mm film manages to succeed in its aim of being reminiscent of seventies folklore horror, meanwhile the muted almost drab colour palette especially when combined with the bleakness of the surrounding countryside is a perfect representation of the limited and dare we say empty mindset of those living in the small rural town,

Although the resolution will not come as a surprise to many, at only eleven minutes long THE SERMON certainly does not overstay its welcome but rather serves as a highly entertaining and polished piece of work, the likes of which are a rarity these days [no Stewart Lee references please].

Tackling intolerance, ignorance and dare I say love in a small isolated religious community, THE SERMON is more than worth your time.

There are a few other elements that I have not touched upon in this review (the terrific music courtesy of Bizarre Rituals being one) which I will leave it for you to discover, to make your own interpretation and to draw your own conclusion.

This film was a collaboration between Grasp The Nettle Films and the Creative England/BFI Network and on the evidence of THE SERMON and Dean Puckett’s previous short of the same year (SATAN’S BITE: OR THE FOOLISHNESS OF THE WITCHFINDER THOMAS EASTCHURCH) this is a director with a very promising future.

If you wish to see THE SERMON for yourself, and I suggest that you do, then you can view it for free on Vimeo.

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Beware of Satan’s bite!!!

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Out there exists many many aspiring and established film makers and one benefit of living in the digital age where the internet is accessible to the majority of the Western world is that these film makers have easy access to their audience and the means to reach a broad range of people at a relatively low cost.

However with this amazing promotional opportunity comes an almost insurmountable amount of competition. This competing noise ironically makes it more difficult to stand out from the crowd and not only gain awareness but to go that one step further and actually have people watch and interact with your creation.

Therefore I feel it is important for us as fans  that when we do see something that we enjoy that we support it, we advocate it and we discuss it. So I would like to point you in the direction of a short film which I happened across recently; ‘Satan’s Bite’, from writer & director Dean Puckett and Grasp the Nettle Films. A tale of witchcraft which I cannot recommend enough.

Shot in just one day and on one roll of Super8 (as part of the Straight8 annual competition) the short film went on to be selected to be screened at Cannes which certainly tells you of the quality behind it.

Along with a clear nod and (admittedly easy) comparison to the 1968 film’Witchfinder General’, Puckett also took influence from Carl Dreyers ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ and Robert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’. With the mention of these last two films you won’t be surprised to learn that it is a silent film. And one that is all the more effective for it thanks to strong performances and a haunting, almost hypnotic audio track that generates an eerie and foreboding mood.

‘Satan’s Bite: or The foolishness of the Witchfinder Thomas Eastchurch’ is a bizarre and uncompromising occult short film with an unsettling score and an effective, authentic look (no doubt thanks to the use of Super8 film). Successfully delivered in under three minutes this is how short films should be, but make a like a Witchfinder and judge for yourself below:

You can follow the writer/director Dean Puckett on Twitter and keep up to date with Grasp the Nettle films and their work on their website. Upcoming film ‘The Sermon’, made with support from Creative England and the BFI looks particularly interesting and a continuation of the great British rural and folk horror genre.