Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children – Samuel L. Jackson as “Jules Vincent” in Pulp Fiction
Welcome to the Ozarks. “Fern” (Leven Ramblin – Chasing Mavericks) is from here but she definitely does not consider it home. She’s just gotten out of the Army and has PTSD or something like it. The only reason she has decided to come home is to search for her brother “Billy” (Taylor John Smith – You Get Me). Their father has died and she now owns the family home, such as it is. She arrives fresh from a tour of duty in a combat zone, still in her digital camouflage uniform that the Army refers to as an ACU (Army Combat Uniform) and carrying the traditional duffel bag.
She is greeted on arrival by “Florine” (Toni Chritton Johnson), an old family friend. Florine has lots of advice for Fern, none of which Fern has any interest in. She takes her out to the family home and leaves her there, promising to return.
As is often the case with returning veterans, the need to kick back and tie one on sends Fern to a local bar where she flirts with the bartender. They wind up in his bed and she tries to dress and dash in the morning after.
Fern’s home is in the middle of nowhere and in the nearby woods, Fern finds a young boy. At first he won’t approach her, but Fern convinces him to accompany her back to her house. He admits that his name is “Cecil” (Landon Edwards) but he refuses to answer any other questions about himself. She winds up calling the local authorities and a social worker named “Mike” (Jim Parrack – Annapolis) shows up. He also happens to be the bartender that Fern had hooked up with. She wants him to take Cecil and place him in foster care. When she responds to Mike’s query if she knows that Cecil would be in for, you can see on her face that she knows very well; before she says a word. But he persuades Fern to keep Cecil for a few days while he tries to locate the boy’s family.
Soon after Cecil’s arrival, Fern falls ill. She goes to see a local doctor recommended by Florine and is warned of something known as a “Tatterdemalion.” Fern learns that local lore tells of a life-draining demon known as a Tatterdemalion that comes in the form of a child lost in the forest. In spite of her disbelief in such things, she begins to suspect that Cecil might be that demon. Especially when he asks her if she believes in monsters.
Director Ramaa Mosley (The Brass Teapot) delivers on the promising debut she made in that fine effort. The tension is palpable and tautens throughout. Ramblin, a beautiful woman in real life is made to look appropriately dowdy to fit into the local aesthetic (or lack thereof). Story, dialogue and visuals are mixed well with the right background sounds to increase viewer engagement.