At this point, the lore of Slender Man has completed its transformation from creepypasta story to a quick and easy horror movie for studios and to produce. Throw in the real-life true crime story surrounding it and boom, you have a the Blumhouse movie, Mercy Black. A surprise Netflix release, this horror flick stars Daniella Pineda as the main character Marina Hess. The supporting cast has both familiar names like Janeane Garofalo, Elle LaMont, and Austin Amelio and new ones like Miles Emmons and Sophianna Smith.
After 15 years in an institution, as punishment for stabbing a classmate to bring an imaginary being called Mercy Black to life, Marina Hess returns to her old home. Released from psychiatric care she tries to start a new life with her sister (LaMont) and nephew (Emmons). As Marina has been fighting to forget, the status of her crime has turned the myth of Mercy Black from something personal, into something viral. Now, internet rumors, stories, and even copycat crimes have sprung up around the myth she wants nothing to do with.
Throughout the film, Marina is haunted by both the actions of her past and the creature she made up. But when her nephew becomes increasingly obsessed with Mercy Black, she has no choice but to confront the past to save him. But in typical horror fashion, as she dives deeper into her memories and into the myth, she discovers there is a real threat threatening her and it will stop at nothing to take her and her nephew.
If you can’t tell, the film twists the existing viral Slender Man story into an original property that is just different enough not to be named the same thing. That being said, the sameness to Mercy Black and the Slender Man serves as a way for the audience to assume they know the story and is inspired enough by true events to be just like the documentary and Lifetime movie about the 2014 Wisconsin stabbing.
I was excited to see Daniela Pineda leading the film, in part because it’s extremely rare to see a Latina leading a horror cast, but mainly due to my exposure to her in the fantasy-horror teen drama The Originals. That being said, her role is nothing I haven’t seen before. Beyond the name Mercy Black, the film doesn’t do much to create a unique narrative, which wouldn’t be bad except for the fact that the jump scares are also unoriginal, cheapening them.
All of this being said, there are some interesting things about Mercy Black. One of these, some horror fans may have noticed and others may have missed. The primary location, the Hess house is the house from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This leads to well-framed imagery in the film and the unkempt state of the house adds to the ominous setting.
Beyond that, the twist is well executed. There is something compelling in seeing both supernatural and human forces pinch a main character into a corner. Even if the dialogue and motive muddled, the twist itself was something I didn’t fully see coming, which for a Blumhouse streaming release is a feat.
However, the flick wastes some of its best actors including Garofalo who plays Marina’s psychiatrist and Amelio (of The Walking Dead fame) who plays the creepy boyfriend-ish man in the sister’s life. Ultimately, the film is on the boring side, instead of building up to a climax, Mercy Black slowly pulls itself to the third act and hopes that the viewer hasn’t lost interest due to the seemingly separate storylines.
Most horror fans know that Blumhouse is a 50/50 split when it comes to its films, and unfortunately Mercy Black falls in the bad half. It’s a rehashing of an existing story and mythos that stopped being interesting in 2017 – if I’m being generous. But if you’re looking for the equivalent to a Lifetime movie but make it horror, go ahead and press play. If not, keep looking for something else to chill your bones at night.
Mercy Black is available now exclusively on Netflix.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.