The Righteous delivers a gripping and memorable spiritual thriller

From writer and director Mark O’Brien, the just delivers a comfortable horror movie built from predictable religious fare. A close-up portrait of a grieving couple confronting their past and the unexpected, the film may not pose new questions but is nonetheless impactful. Building on its intense and compelling storyline, strong performances from everyone involved, and a striking visual aesthetic, the just delivers a tense thriller that will keep viewers invested until the bitter end.

the just stars Henry Czerny as Frederic Mason, a former priest who left the clergy and lives with his wife, Mimi Kuzyk’s Ethel Mason, as the couple mourn the death of their daughter. One night, a young man, Mark O’Brien’s Aaron Smith, approaches the couple’s isolated home, injured and asking for help. Frédéric is initially reluctant to bring the man into his home, immediately creating the tension that accompanies the arrival of this stranger. As Aaron seems to be making his way through the Mason household, he strikes up conversations with Frederic that raise suspicion and ultimately tear this couple apart.

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The black-and-white film delves into the gray middle ground of human nature. While the guilt of religious leaders and the horrors and atrocities committed under the banner of piety are a longstanding trope in the horror genre, the just carves out a new corner. Here, the religious indiscretion is just the context in which the thriller is set, and while it provides significant backbone for the film, it is by no means supportive. The story he tells may not be unique, but his presentation is utterly compelling and drags viewers to the violent end.

Part of the raffle of the just is his intimate home. This is a dialogue-heavy film, and most of the narrative work is done in one-on-one conversations. Betting that much on a scenario is risky, but it pays off for the just. The strange and tense relationships between Aaron and the Masons, the quick non-sequences that guide the dialogue, and the memories that build the backstory of these characters land and pull the viewer deeper into this tale.

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The stark black and white photography adds to the unsettling feel of the just, as well. For a story about degrees of moral corruption, the color scheme certainly adds a metaphor to each scene. The limited color selection also shrouds each of those heavy conversations in shadow, heightening the tension even during seemingly innocuous scenes. With sometimes sharp angles that disrupt the scene and haunting framing that, while not subtle, certainly adds to the experience, the just is a visual journey.

While everything in the just was set up for success, with a compelling script and strong visual style, ensuring the cast could bring the story to life was crucial to the film. Fortunately, Czerny and Kuzyk are electrifying as the Masons, and Aaron d’O’Brien adds another strong performance. the just may not surprise with its twists, but it tells a strong story wrapped in a cohesive aesthetic that together provide tension and thrills well worth a watch. O’Brien clearly has an eye for substance and the style he lent to the justwhich will leave viewers waiting for his next project.

The Righteous is available to stream now on ARROW.

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