Fear the Preacher! Ani reviews ‘Brimstone’


Director: Martin Koolhoven

Writers: Martin Koolhoven (screenplay) (story)


The Down Ditty:

Liz has a happy little life. Married to a good man who is a hard working farmer, has an adorable little girl, and earns a modest living as a mid wife….then the Reverand comes to town.

Life is no longer so happy for Liz.

There’s more to fear than Hell, trust me!

My Two Cents:

Ya know, I LOVE when I randomly come across a movie, not knowing a damn thing about it, and end up blown away!

Brimstone is a powerful film that will have you running the gambit of the emotional spectrum. At times in can be downright brutal to watch. We’re rarely given time to catch our breath as each revelation hits us. I have to give props to Writer/Director Martin Koolhoven, the man did damn near everything right with this gem. 

The story behind the making of the film is almost as interesting as the actual movie. This was a passion project for Koolhoven who crafted the script over a three-year period. When it was time to roll camera, funding fell through and two actors dropped out at the last minute. Mia Wasikowska was initially cast as the lead but was forced to pull out due to a scheduling conflict brought on by the delay of the production due to funding. The same happened with Robert Patterson, who was cast in the role Kit Harrington ending up playing.

Koolhoven refused to give up and secured new funding. He could have gotten funding from a Hollywood studio but didn’t wish to give up creative control and instead went with a Dutch film company. The budget was lower, but he’d get to make the film he wanted.

Our little girl is all grown up…I think I’m gonna cry…no wait… Yup I’m bawling!

He also landed Dakota Fanning to take over Mia’s role, a move that I think was a fucking windfall, as I’ll explain. Kit Harrington cut his vacation short to take on Pattersons’ role and filming got under way. The result is a fucking cinematic work of art!

The acting in this flick is insanely good! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, pulls their weight and delivers an Oscar-caliber performance. It’s not often I cannot find a single bad apple, but start to finish, shit was flawless.

Do I even have to talk about Ms. Fannings’ acting? The woman is one of the most under-rated actors working today and she proves it here, taking on a role where a good portion she is a mute. No disrespect to Ms. Wasikowska, but Fanning was made for this role. Dakota has this…innocence…about her that no doubt comes from us watching her grow up in front of the camera. Watching her character endure what she does is made so much more painful thanks to Dakota’s performance. In a way, she’ll always be that little girl to many of us and that makes us much more invested in her character. That’s not to say she isn’t accepted as an adult actor. She damn sure proved her cred here and solidified me as a fan, even though I’ve been one and known about how good she is as an adult actress for some time.

The good news, Jeebus loves you. The bad news, your all gonna burn in Hell!

The scene when the Reverend first appears, Dakota only hears his voice and shifts from a happy, doting mom, to a fear-stricken, dread-filled woman. The horror on her face happens so suddenly and is insanely effective! All that emotion shown, while simultaneously hinting at something else. That’s fucking talent!

Guy Pearce is another under-rated gem. This is a performer who could give Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money. His portrayal of the Reverand is one for the books. He hits Hannibal Lecter level scariness. You can feel the evil emanate from him in every scene he’s in. Pearce doesn’t simply get your attention, he commands it and holds you in his hand as he calmly chews up the scenery. In many ways, he reminded me of Rutger Hauer‘s’ character in The Hitcher. That quiet, methodical evil that is scarily unpredictable and always two steps ahead. Loved it!

As much as I sing the praises of Fanning and Dakota, I have to tip my hat especially to Emilia Jones, who gives the performance of her young life here. At 14, Emilia had 2 huge obstacles to contend with here. First, she plays the younger version of Dakota’s character, which means her performance had to be on par with Fanning’s, no easy fucking task (especially since the story is told out of sequence and Emilia’s scenes come between Dakota’s). Second, she had to give said performance in the same space as Pearce. I don’t need to tell you how derailed a film can become when an actor fails to keep pace with their co-star. It ruins the entire fucking scene! No worries, though…Jones delivered in spades. Emilia’s role is extremely important to the plot and had a lesser actor gotten the role it could have seriously slammed the brakes on what Koolhoven was trying to do.

Please don’t let me screw this up! Oh, and can we do something about that creepy ass dude standing behind me?

Emilia, you have a future! Go get’em girl!

Kit Harrington, despite being on the cover of the poster, has a pretty small role, but he delivers, giving us a likable character in a film with a serious shortage of them. This is the first time I saw him do anything other than an English accent and he does a good job here. It was amusing to see Jon Snow talking with a Texas draw.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, another cast member of that awesome show pops up here: the great Carice Van Houten who plays Melisandre on GoT, also has a small but pivotal role. Her character hammers everything home and required a skilled actress to pull off, especially since she doesn’t get much dialogue. We needed to feel the character’s pain and humiliation and thanks to Carice we did. Her scenes are probably the hardest to watch. Another actor who proves acting is much more than words.

Winter is comi….I mean…what in tarnation!!!

Now, despite glowing reviews on the film circuit, one complaint did rear its head; the violence. My Grue-ling’s who dig the red stuff won’t be let down, shit can get grisly here and there, surprisingly, but honestly, it’s not of the entertaining variety catsup. The violence is there to hammer home the seriousness and urgency of the situation. Fuck the critics, I got it. The violence was necessary, it wasn’t there just to be there, it served a purpose. The context is such that when the red stuff hits, you actually cringe.

I’m not even gonna get into skin like I usually do. This just isn’t that kind of movie, I was too busy being horrified to care if there were boobs or not.

There are films that have covered this kind of narrative, but few have done it with such style and effectiveness. Koolhoven manages to pace the movie in such a way that you’re never bored. That’s a feat considering it’s almost two and half hours long. The story, as mentioned, is out of sequence. Normally this would irk me, but here it’s done for a reason and works quite well. The film unravels in layers. We’re never quite sure what’s happening and why until the very end. Revelations are slowly given to us to keep us interested, but we have to wait for the puzzle to be completed, and when it is you realize it was def fucking worth it!

There’s also strong female empowerment themes here, but it’s never crammed down our throats. Koolhoven presents some dark shit that some females have sadly endured and shows how it affects them. It can be said there is religious commentary here as it relates to women, but again, it’s never crammed down our throats.  It’s a factor that’s left up to us to ponder. I like that. I prefer not to be preached to. Props to Koolhoven for masterfully side stepping that hypocrisy and still being able to address important issues.

Is that Kenny Rogers?!

I can’t recommend this one enough. You don’t have to like films set in the old west (Even though I totally do) because that’s just the backdrop here. The story is what matters and trust me, this is one helluva story told by a passionate director and a highly skilled cast. Just don’t go in looking to be entertained because this isn’t a flick that looks to entertain. It looks to disturb you, get under your skin, and cause you to think about it long after the credits role. This isn’t something to be watched but rather experienced.

So did I have any complaints? I wasn’t thrilled by the ending, but it’s not really a flaw but rather just my personal feelings. Still, I got it. It matches the rest of the film and drives home how unfair life can be, yet presents a measure of hope. It was the right way to go, much as I hate to admit it.

This should come as no surprise, but I give this one five out of five Grues. As I said, this one gets it right across the board. Great director, great actors, an atmosphere that permeates us and feels us with dread, a story that’s engaging and powerful, and beautiful cinematics.

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

If you want a film that will take you on a ride, pick up speed, then throw the door open and kick you out while it’s doing 90…this is that film! As I said, it’s an experience, one worth setting time aside for!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to church. Hopefully, I don’t burst into flames upon entering…


Acting 100%
Story 100%
Gore 65%
Nudity 10%
Final Thoughts

Overall Score 68%
Readers Rating
0 votes

Leave a Comment