Moloch (2022) Sets the Stage for Ritualistic Dutch Horror
First Non-Festival Release: May 19, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Nico van den Brink
Writer: Daan Bakker, Nico van den Brink
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Sallie Harmsen, Alexandre Willaume, Anneke Blok
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Shaped by the traumatic events of her childhood when her grandmother was murdered, Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) still lives in her family home despite the memories. Beyond her grandmother, death has a way of taking those in her family in untimely manners, leading to locals spreading rumors that they are cursed. She tells this to Jonas (Alexandre Wilaume), an anthropologist excavating the bog whom she has taken a fancy to as they have gotten better acquainted. When Jonas’s team makes the startling discovery of a preserved women with her throat slit, they find themselves diving head first into the local legends that surround the town.
Chilling and atmospheric, Moloch opts for immersive storytelling and authentic folklore to deliver something eerie.
As the story unwinds, the pieces of the puzzle begin to materialize in ways that make it possible for audiences to guess what and why happens, but not making it too easy. The mythology in particular is shared in a natural way without spoon feeding the audience every little detail. It is also fascinating in of itself. Without the events of the main story, it would make for a great prequel horror film. It’s appreciated how Moloch chooses to subvert typical tropes found in these types of movies by focusing on the character most affected and not wasting energy on red herrings. Very much a slow burn, Moloch prides itself in its restraint in telling its dark story. The answers aren’t telegraphed but there are ample clues strewn about the bog to cue viewers in on the true nature of the terror Betriek and her family are enduring.
Visually strong, Moloch features quite a bit of beautiful and sinister imagery. Between the oceans of fog in the secluded forest and the muted color pallet, blood has a way of popping in the film, bringing the viewer’s attention to the most shocking aspects of the practices of the town. Vivid nightmare sequences established early on aid in the visual assault of the finale. Despite very limited need for strong effects work, the use is great in Moloch. Elevating the scariest scenes even further, they help escalate the feeling of dread that rises as Betriek and Jonas unfurl what is happening.
This dark chiller revels in its concise vision of cyclical trauma. By emphasizing the way that women are subject to the desires of forces outside their control, oftentimes even within their own family. Themes of generational trauma and messed up family dynamics play out in the most sinister of ways. The culminating ritual hits even harder once it is explained how the family is tricked into becoming willing participants. In setting up the horror this way, Moloch shows how women are worn down through years of violence to eventually accept their place in continuing the violence.
The fact that the town is unaware is nice insight on how terrible things can continue to happen when a blind eye is investigating. This mirrors society’s predilection to inaction even when the horrors are clearly visible to others. When outsiders come to investigate and excavate, they too are unaware that the terrible things are still happening to the women in that original line. The more it gets deconstructed, the clearer it gets that Moloch is decrying the systematic subjugation, abuse, and sacrifice of women in service of a greater power.
This Dutch haunter has all the makings of a spooky supernatural horror film, ultimately delivering on its unsettling premise and getting under the skin of viewers. As a slow burn, Moloch may not be for all horror aficionados, but it does eclipse to a wonderfully dark finale that is tinged with blood and dark revelations. Folkloric horror from other countries is always welcome and Moloch scratches a deep itch for the unfamiliar in audiences aching for something different. After viewing this Shudder exclusive, you may find a new god worth worshipping in Moloch.