Directed by: Frank Peluso
Run time: 91 minutes
The Lowdown: Red Handed, which was originally filmed as Children of Moloch, a much cooler title, in my opinion, is a curious, ambitious religious thriller that benefits from the presence of two genre icons but can’t maintain its momentum through its too-conventional third act.
Right out of the gate, though, Red Handed hits viewers with a blast of Old Testament righteousness and a bunch of gobbledygook about Moloch the demon, the god of Canaan, who received child sacrifices and liked to burn certain kids alive in a lake of fire.
So, yeah, this is going to be light-hearted, for sure.
Red Handed jumps to Oregon and introduces Michael Madsen in a small yet pivotal role as the father of three sons, of whom he only speaks to two.
Within a matter of minutes, a buxom blonde femme fatale named Rachael (Caroline Vreeland) pulls up to his mechanic’s garage, seduces him, takes him back to this huge antebellum mansion where a Satanic ritual is underway and that’s pretty much the end of Madsen’s brief cameo.
The film then jumps to the three brothers – Duffy, Gus and Pete – reuniting over their dad’s unexpected death, which gives them all a chance to reconnect since Pete (Owen Burke), a reclusive park ranger who lives alone in the woods, has never quite connected to his siblings due to something in his past.
The boys’ uncle, Reynolds (Michael Biehn), tells them to spread Madsen’s ashes in nature, but before everybody can hold hands and sing kumbaya around a campfire, Duffy’s son Louie disappears.
Everyone starts turning on each other, and eventually all fingers point to Pete, who we learn was himself abducted as a child. But then weird shit starts happening to Duffy and Gus too.
Red Handed takes its sweet time building to a boil. I think part of that is intentional on writer-director Frank Peluso’s part, but I also feel like he’s trying overly hard to keep Red Handed from falling squarely into a conventional horror genre.
When it works, though, Peluso’s ambition can be pretty exciting because there aren’t a lot of films like this that try to do something other than what’s expected.
And there’s plenty of batshit-crazy-occult flourishes further on to properly distinguish Red Handed from the pack.
However, the film plays it way too safe in the waning minutes of its uneven third act. Instead of going all-in with the occult theme, Peluso tries to course-correct into a conventional thriller complete with a lackluster struggle and standoff that segues into a happy ending of sorts, which is not how you expect Red Handed to end.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes, Caroline Vreeland is smoking hot.
Nudity – Brief.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Cult members.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
City on the Hill: Season One
Big Trouble in Little China: Collector’s Edition
Slaughterhouse Five: Special Edition