Shudder’s original film, “Moloch,” directed by Nico van den Brink, is folk horror that attempts to create a narrative that’s not only filled with suspense, but fulfills a larger philosophy. The 1.5 hour film is as sharp as it gets and instills a sense of urgency in the issues it tackles. Ella van der Woude’s music adds some weirdness to the scheme of things and skillfully completes the dark setting, filmed by Emo Weemhoff. So let’s analyze this Dutch story and see if it is able to bring something authentic to the plate or not.
Summary of the plot of “Moloch”: what is the film about?
It was 1991, and a young Betriek was feeding a house mouse she had petted. Suddenly, she heard voices coming from upstairs. Someone had entered the room where her grandmother lived. Shortly after, she saw blood dripping from the ceiling. It was a traumatic experience for the child, but she survived that night somehow. The movie “Moloch” takes us 30 years forward in time, where we see Betriek now living with his daughter and her parents near a bog in a small town in the Netherlands. A mysterious person, nicknamed “the bag man”, was found dead by authorities and was believed to be digging the ground for some reason. His body lay in the same pit he had dug. A group of archaeologists had also arrived in the city the same day, as they had found the carefully preserved corpse of a woman. They thought the corpse belonged to the recent past, considering that it had prevented decomposition. But that was not the case. Jonas, the team leader, who had the reputation of being one of the best in his field, was very amused by this discovery. Betriek sensed that she had seen the Bag Man in her garden, but her father told her that was not possible as the man had died earlier that day.
The next morning, Roelof, his father, was fighting with Jonas, because he believed that someone from his archaeological team had broken into his premises. Jonas and Betriek were at the same cafe that night, where they had the chance to talk and develop a bond. Jonas was attracted to the Dutch girl and wanted to know more about her. Betriek told him his family history and how the townspeople thought his entire lineage was cursed. Her husband, Neil, had passed away, leaving her with a daughter named Hanna. His grandmother was killed by someone when she was very young (as shown in the first scene), and after this incident his father had become an alcoholic. Recently, it was discovered that his mother, Elske, also suffered from some kind of disease. Doctors were of the opinion that it was a case of untreated trauma which now showed physical symptoms in her. They advised her to seek therapy, but Betriek’s mother was adamant she wouldn’t. Strange things had happened since Jonah, and his team had discovered the preserved body of a woman. One of his team members, named Radu, broke into Betriek’s house. Radu was constantly apologizing and saying someone was making him do this. He suddenly attacked his mother, but his father arrived at the right time and hit him on the head, knocking him unconscious. The police arrived at the house and took him to the hospital.
Jonas came the next day and he was as amused as Betriek’s family. He couldn’t understand how a man who hadn’t lifted a finger in his entire life now had the audacity to do something like this. Roelof said even the Bag Man exhibited similar behavior. Betriek and Jonas meet a man whose son, named Micha, died a few days ago. He too had dug like the others. Micha’s father says he used to hear whispers, and that’s why he knew exactly where to dig. It is about a woman named Helen and folklore somehow connected to the death of her boy. Jonas learned that Radu dug in specific areas and found the corpses of four other women, which were preserved in the same way as the first one they found. The surprising fact was that each woman had her throat slit vertically. Betriek had a strange encounter with Radu’s son when she went to the hospital to have her mother checked. The little child came with her in the elevator and said a sentence: “Nu a murit”. Later, she searched and discovered that it meant “she never died” in Romanian. There was a connection between the women’s bodies, found by Jonas, and what was going on in Betriek’s life. To fully understand the situation, Jonas asked his colleague Sonja to tell him more about the legend of Feike and if it has a connection with the death of the people.
‘Moloch’ ending explained What was Feike’s legend? Who killed Betriek’s family?
The Dutch city believed in Feike’s folklore and often celebrated her as a heroine. Sonja talks to Jonas about it, while simultaneously, the kids at Betriek’s school play it on stage. Many centuries ago, there was an evil lord named Walter. He had a wife named Helen, who was not only steeped in greed but also exerted a malignant influence over her husband. Walter was beaten by a slave girl named Feike and had an adulterous relationship with her. Helen learned that Feike was pregnant with her husband’s baby and she was furious. She wanted to find a way to make the young girl repent of her actions, although she never blamed her own husband for betraying her trust. She created a fake story where she told the townspeople that Feike was a witch and had possessed her husband. She called her a wicked witch and imprisoned her. Feike was heartbroken as she had to pay for the sins she didn’t commit. She started praying to her God and asking for justice. His prayers were answered by a pagan god named “Moloch”, the god of child sacrifice. She made a pact with the pagan God. She said she would sacrifice herself if he promised that Helen would repent for subjecting her to such cruelty and abuse. “Moloch” agreed, but there was a catch. There was a cost to this retribution. “Moloch” would have a claim on Feike’s unborn child. He says it’s a revenge cage, like a loop. He told her that history would continue to repeat itself and that unborn generations would continue to pay the price of retribution. Feike was so wrapped up in vengeance that she agrees and slits her throat in front of Helen, escaping her adverse fate.
Betriek had begun to understand everything. The women found in the excavations were all related and belonged to different eras. The cycle repeated itself every 30 years, when “Moloch” came to claim the bodies of Feike’s successors. Helen’s spirit still wandered the area and usually whispered things to the men. It was likely that Betriek’s family, Feike, and all those women who were killed belonged to the same bloodline, although there is no conclusive proof of the same. Roelof had set the trap in his garden when he saw all the dead women suddenly appear. He attacked his own wife, but Betriek managed to punch him and free his mother. Later, his mother hung Roelof from a noose and killed him. She bound Betriek and, in front of her, slit his throat, thereby sacrificing her life and allowing the “Moloch” to claim the next woman in line, that is, Betriek. Jonas reached the house, untied the ropes Betriek was tied to, and led her to find Hanna, who had been hiding in the storeroom until now. It was as if the havoc had ended that night, but it didn’t.
A few days later, Jonas came back to town and met Betriek. He offered her and Hanna to move in with him, but Betriek politely declined the offer. As they left, Betriek picked up the sachet of coffee sugar, just like his mother Elske did. Jonas had also started to feel pretty fuzzy lately. He was restless and couldn’t concentrate. The curse had not ended. It was only a matter of time when Jonas would start hearing whispers from Helen, as would Roelof. “Moloch” had already claimed Betriek’s soul and was just waiting for the moment when she would slit her throat and give her daughter, Hanna, to the pagan god. In the last scene, we see that it was actually “Moloch” who was sitting with Hanna. Betreik’s soul had been taken by him the very night his mother committed suicide. Now he was just waiting for the 30 year cycle to end, after which in all likelihood even Betriek would start having those seizures and panic attacks like his mother and sacrifice his physical body. He stood by what he had told Feike: she would have to pay a huge price for revenge.
Through Feike Folklore, director Nico van den Brink and his co-screenwriter Daan Bakker point to the simple fact that you can never move forward in life if you are still deluded by a strong sense of revenge. The idea may seem cathartic at first, but ultimately it harms the victim more than the wrongdoer. Feike wanted Helen to repent, and while she was able to get him to do that, she never truly broke free from that bitter cage. Forgiveness is something that does not come easily, but it has the power to set a person free. Nothing good is ever created from bitterness, and Betriek released that when she looked at her daughter from outside the window. She hoped that Hanna would break free from this revenge loop and end the cycle once and for all.
The music, intriguing folklore, eerie atmospheres, and realistic performances, combined together, make “Moloch” a captivating watch, and it’s definitely something fans of the genre will relish.
“Moloch” is a 2022 drama horror film directed by Nico van den Brink.