When their father is murdered, three brothers take a trip to an Oregon mountain river to spread his ashes, but after they arrive, one of their children goes missing.

Red Handed is an occult drama written and directed by Frank Peluso in his freshman debut. Surprisingly, Nick Cassavetes, director of The Notebook (2004), produced this film, which is being marketed as a thriller with dark, sexy, paganistic themes. From its trailer, I had high hopes for Red Handed to have lots of freaky and scary occult aspects, or at the very least, some thrills while they solve an ancient mystery in a high stakes situation, I instead ended up watching a movie that hit the ground running as a noir but lost its breath changing pace into a family drama; unfortunately, the movie never quite got its second wind.

A long time ago in a valley far, far away, Canaanites sacrificed their firstborn sons to a demon-god named Moloch, though some children were spared and marked with the fangs of a serpent. Over 2000 years later, a family is, for some reason, doomed to repeat this history in present-day Oregon. After the death of a mechanic named Lou (Michael Madsen), his surviving sons Duffy (Christian Madsen), Gus (Ryan Carnes), and Pete (Owen Burke) are contacted by their estranged uncle Reynolds (Michael Biehn), who never spoke to them due to a falling out with their father. Inviting them to come to his home by the Sazarac River Valley to spread Lou’s ashes, the sons bring their girlfriends, as well as Duffy’s young son Louie (Frank Peluso 3) along for the trip. When Louie goes missing after going into the woods, his father and uncles go in search of him, aided by resurfacing traumatic memories from Pete’s childhood.

The tagline reads “Children are capable of anything”, but it is more a display of adults showing that they are capable of anything in this movie. Part of the horror of Red Handed is how children are treated with such menace and the subsequent loss of childhood innocence at the hands of an ancient, snake-handling, religious cult. However, it doesn’t play as a horror or thriller, but rather a melodrama with some twists and turns at the end to ramp it up to overdramatic. It could have leaned into the pagan aspect more to add suspense to the story and tension to the characters’ intent, like Ari Asters’ Hereditary or even Midsommar. The awkwardly staged action scenes, the predictability of events, and the misplaced feel-good scene tacked onto the end may have taken away from the intensity that one would be looking for in a thriller… and shined a glaring light on the movie’s lack of budget.

This slow-paced thriller did, however, have some rather sexy and alluring parts, 100% thanks to Caroline Vreeland who played the siren cult-member, Rachael, with an endearing femme fatale that extended beyond the very seductive styling given to her character. The creepiness of the movie is in the visual portrayal of the adults’ psychosis caused by being kidnapped and subjected to pagan rituals as children, which was portrayed in some other standout characters, particularly Owen Burke as Pete, who was sincere and vulnerable in his performance. Though the actors sometimes did not interact with each other authentically, individually there were highlights in each of their performances, though like some unnecessary scenes, Red Handed could have edited its large cast down by at least two tacked on characters.

Though Red Handed left me desperate for intensity, it did have some horror lying in its kidnapping cult and murderous members, as well as the circuity of trauma affecting generation after generation. The action does pick up in the final leg of the film, but at the same time, it turns into a bit of a soap opera and its low budget becomes revealed in rough editing that avoids the use of special effects. Red Handed has some interesting concepts about how the occult and symbolism have effects on our everyday lives without us realizing it, but this movie had no effect on me and I was unimpressed overall. From High Octane Pictures, who have recently brought us Fighting The Sky (read our review) and Winterskin (read our review), Red Handed was released December 3rd, 2019 to DVD and digital platforms.

Red Handed
RATING:URNo Trailer Available
Runtime:1 hr 31 Mins.
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Written By: