Moloch opens with a very young Betriek locked in a small room as – we assume – her family is attached; there’s terrific noise and later blood seeps down the walls.

Moving forward 30 years later Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) has a daughter Hannah (Noor van der Velden), and still living in the same house with her mother (Anneke Blok) and father (Fred Goessens). Surrounded by peat bogs in northern Netherlands there’s not much going on until archaeologists discover a number of women’s bodies beautifully preserved in the bogs.

Betriek takes a general interest in the dig that develops when she acquaints Jonas (Alexandre Willaume) one of the archaeologists in a bar. It’s good-natured conversation that eventually leads to the dig and the local legends. Superstition is part and parcel of rural life though the tale of Moloch weighs heavily on the community, with the townspeople telling of hearing whispers and the mysterious death of a local early on.

An attack by a possessed member of the dig team on Betriek’s family home is repelled. However, the trauma of the attack and the mental stress now crushing her and her family, convinces Betriek that she needs to dig deeper into her and the villages’ history.

For all the groundwork developing a psychological edge to blend with its more pronounced spectral elements, Moloch doesn’t do very much that is radical within the rural/folk-horror genre, but it does is quite effectively.

There’s a sluggishness about it at times but then there’s a musty air of creepiness within the house with debut director Nico van den Brink (co-written with Daan Bakker) using the remote locations very effectively, with plenty of the requisite mist shrouded forest and whisps of figures glanced therein.

But they don’t confine the film to these settings. One of the most effective sequences is at the hospital; the injured man is surrounded by his family, when Betriek arrives attracting the interest of his young daughter.

The players are generally very good with the viewer getting a palpable sense that the characters trauma; of dread and grim expectation. That and some effective jump scares combine for an engaging thriller.

Moloch will be on Shudder from 21 July.

LATEST REVIEWS