In the first scene of Moloch, which takes place in 1991, a young girl is feeding a mouse when she hears what sounds like a very violent attack in the room above her. Soon, blood starts pouring out from between the floorboards and down the walls onto the terrified girl.
Betriek (Sallie Harmsen, Blade Runner 2049, The Postcard Killings) is now an adult with her own daughter, Hanna (Noor van der Velden). In the beginning, we heard Betriek’s grandmother being killed. Her father, Roelof, played by Fred Goessens (Commandos, Quality Time), was traumatized by her death and still waits for the killer to come back while he is drunk. Her mother, played by Anneke Blok (The Canal, Foodies), has a disease that no one knows what it is, but it seems to cause seizures. When you add in the fact that Hanna’s father died of a heart attack, it’s easy to see why people in the area think the family is cursed. Betriek herself is half convinced of this.
Moloch is firmly in the folk horror genre, which is clear from how it starts in a foggy rural area. Director Nico van den Brink (Avondland) and co-writer Daan Bakker (Zenith: Supercharged Family, Quality Time) make this point clear: the family’s house is near a bog where a homeless man dies under strange circumstances and a team of researchers is finding the bodies of bog people. When one of the team members suddenly tries to kill Betriek and her family, it seems to prove that there is a curse.
Moloch builds up the plot slowly, giving us little bits of information while keeping the characters in the spotlight. Not only Betriek and her family, but also Jonas, the leader of the researchers Betriek works with (Alexandre Willaume, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Tomb Raider). Thanks to the script, they aren’t just the usual stereotypes; they have more depth and seem more real. This is especially true of how the family members interact with each other. If those relationships hadn’t worked, a lot of the movie would have been boring.
The foggy peat bog and the surrounding rural area, which looks like the English moors, make me think of British Gothic movies like Hammer’s The Reptile. Though movies like The Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man also come to mind because of the evil being dug up and the town’s pagan past. Some of the scenes in the movie’s last act and its poster seem to be based on the Indonesian folk horror movie Satan’s Slaves, which is interesting.
By the end of the last half hour, Moloch has started to weave its different plot threads into a net that traps the characters as they try to get away. Even if you know how the story will end, the last act is still tense. But the last picture is powerful, and you probably won’t see it coming.
Moloch is more about mood than effects, and cinematographer Emo Weemhoff (Take Me Somewhere Nice, Stop Acting Now) makes the most of the film’s foggy settings. The dark greens and muddy browns of the bog also add to the film’s sense of doom. The results we do get are good enough. When we finally get a good look at Moloch, he looks creepy, but most of the shots are clear signs of CGI.
In the end, Moloch is a good addition to the current cycle of folk horror stories. It’s also one of the few genre movies from the Netherlands that Dick Maas (Amsterdamned, The Lift) didn’t work on.