Shudder’s original film, “Moloch,” directed by Nico van den Brink is a Folk Horror that tries to create a narrative that is not only filled with suspense but caters to a greater philosophy. The 1 hour 30 minute film is as sharp as it can be and instills a sense of urgency in the issues it addresses. Ella van der Woude’s music adds eeriness to the scheme of things and ably supplements the gloomy setting, cinematographed by Emo Weemhoff. So let’s analyze this Dutch story and see whether it is able to bring something authentic to the plate or not.
‘Moloch’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
It was 1991, and a young Betriek was feeding a house mouse that she had petted. Suddenly, she heard some voices coming from the floor above. Somebody had entered the room where her grandmother used to stay. Soon after that, she saw blood dripping from the ceiling. It was a traumatic experience for the child, but she survived that night somehow. The film “Moloch” takes us 30 years ahead in time, where we see that Betriek now lives with her daughter and parents near a peat bog in a small town in the Netherlands. A mysterious person, nicknamed as the “bag man,” was found dead by the authorities and was supposedly digging up the ground for some reason. His dead body lay in the same pit that he had been digging. A group of archaeologists had also arrived in the city that same day, as they had found a neatly preserved dead body of a woman. They believed that the dead body was from the recent past, considering it had forestalled decomposition. But that was not the case. Jonas, the head of the team, who had a reputation as being one of the best in his field, was greatly amused at this discovery. Betriek felt that she saw the Bag Man in her garden, but her father told her that it was not possible as the man had died earlier that day.
The next day, in the morning, Roelof, her father, was fighting with Jonas, as he believed that somebody from his archaeological team had trespassed his premises. Jonas and Betriek happened to be in the same cafe that night, where they had a chance to talk and develop a bond. Jonas was attracted to the Dutch lady and wanted to know more about her. Betriek told him about the history of her family, and how the folks in the town thought that her whole lineage was cursed. Her husband, Neil, had died, leaving her with a daughter named Hanna. Her grandmother was killed by somebody when she was very young (as shown in the first scene), and after that incident, her father had become an alcoholic. Recently, it was figured out that her mother, Elske, too, suffered from some kind of illness. The doctors were of the opinion that it was a case of unprocessed trauma that was now showing physical symptoms in her. They advised her to get therapy, but Betriek’s mother was adamant that she wouldn’t. Strange things had been happening since Jonas, and his team had discovered the preserved body of a woman. One of the members of his team, named Radu, broke into Betriek’s house. Radu was constantly apologizing and saying that somebody was making him do it. He suddenly attacked her mother, but her father arrived at the right time and hit him on the head, making 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 was. He didn’t understand how a man who hadn’t lifted a finger in his whole life now had the audacity to do something like this. Roelof said that even the Bag Man showed a similar behavioral pattern. Betriek and Jonas meet a man whose son, named Micha, had died a couple of days back. He had also been digging like the others. Micha’s father says that he used to hear whispers, and that is why he knew exactly where to dig. He talks about a woman named Helen and about a folklore that was somehow linked to the death of his boy. Jonas got to know that Radu had dug in specific areas and found the dead bodies of four more women, which were preserved in the same fashion as the first one they had found. The surprising fact was that every woman had her throat slit vertically. Betriek had an uncanny encounter with the son of Radu when she went to the hospital to get her mother’s checkup done. The little kid came in the elevator with her and said a phrase: “Nu a murit.” Later, she searched and found that it meant “she never died” in the Romanian language. There was some connection between the bodies of the women, found by Jonas, and what was happening in Betriek’s life. To understand the situation fully, Jonas asked his colleague Sonja to tell him more about the legend of Feike and whether it has any connection with the death of the people.
‘Moloch’ Ending Explained What Was The Legend Of Feike? Who Was Killing Betriek’s Family?
The Dutch town believed in the folklore of Feike and often celebrated her as a heroine. Sonja tells Jonas about it, while simultaneously, the children in Betriek’s school perform it on stage. Many centuries ago, there used to be an evil lord named Walter. He had a wife named Helen, who was not only soaked in greed but also exercised a malign influence over her husband. Walter got smitten by a slave named Feike, and had an adulterous relationship with her. Helen came to know that Feike was pregnant with her husband’s baby, and she was enraged. She wanted to find a way to make the girl repent for her actions, though she never blamed her own husband for betraying her trust. She created a fake narrative where she told the town dwellers that Feike was a witch and had possessed her husband. She called her a wicked sorceress and imprisoned her. Feike was heartbroken as she had to pay for the sins that she hadn’t committed. She started praying to her God and demanding justice. Her prayers were answered by a pagan god named “Moloch,” the God of child sacrifice. She made a deal with the heathen God. She said that 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 that it is a cage of vengeance, like a loop. He told her that history would keep repeating itself, and the unborn generations would keep paying the cost of the retribution. Feike was so enwrapped in vengeance that she agrees to it, and slits her own throat in front of Helen, escaping her adverse fate.
Betriek had started to understand everything. The women who were found in the dig were all related and belonged to different eras. They all had been possessed by Feike and ultimately made the sacrifice. The cycle repeated itself every 30 years, when “Moloch” came and claimed the bodies of the successors of Feike. The spirit of Helen wanted the successors of Feike to repent and the successors themselves wanted to sacrifice their offsprings, because Feike owned their body. Elske was next in line and that is why she was having all sorts of physical problems. Betriek’s family, Feike, and all those women who were killed belonged to the same lineage. Roelof had set the trap in his garden when he saw all the dead women appear all of a sudden. He attacked his own wife, but Betriek managed to hit him and free her mother. Later, her mother hanged Roelof from a noose and killed him. She tied Betriek and, in front of her, slit her throat, thereby sacrificing her life and allowing the “Moloch” to claim the next woman in line, i.e., Betriek. Jonas reached the house, unfastened the ropes to which Betriek was tied, and made her reunite with Hanna, who had been hiding in the storeroom till now. It felt like the havoc had ended that night, but it was not so.
A few days later, Jonas came back to the town and met Betriek. He offered her and Hanna to move in with him, but Betriek politely declined the offer. While leaving, Betriek picked up the sachet of sugar from the cafe, just like her mother Elske used to, which was an evidence of the fact that Feike now resided in her. Jonas had also started feeling quite unfocused of late. He was agitated and couldn’t concentrate. The curse hadn’t ended. It was just a matter of time when Jonas would start hearing whispers, just like Roelof did. Feike had now moved into Betriek’s body, and Moloch was just waiting for the time when she would slit her throat and give her daughter, Hanna, to the heathen God. In the last scene, we see that Feike was sitting with Hanna. The women were forced to do that by Moloch no matter how unwilling they were to sacrifice their daughter. Vengeance had a cost and they had to fulfill it. Betreik’s soul had been claimed by him on the very same night that her mother killed herself. Now he was just waiting for the cycle of 30 years to complete, after which, in all probability, even Betriek would start getting those seizures and panic attacks like her mother and sacrifice her physical body, as Feike resided in her now. The curse was never going to end, Feike would never stop possessing the bodies of the women, and making the sacrifice as per her deal with the Heathen god. Moloch stood by what he had told Feike: she would have to pay a huge price for vengeance.
Through the folklore of Feike, the director, Nico van den Brink, and his co-writer, Daan Bakker, point towards the simple fact that you can never move ahead in life if you are still deluded by a strong feeling of vengeance. The idea might seem cathartic at first, but eventually, it harms the victim more than the one who has committed some wrong. Feike wanted Helen to repent, and though she was successful in making her do that, she never really freed herself from that bitter cage. Forgiveness is something that doesn’t come easily, but it has the power to free a person. Nothing good is ever created out of bitterness, and Betriek released that when she looked at her daughter from outside the window. She hoped that Hanna would free herself from this loop of vengeance and end the cycle once and for all.
The music, the intriguing folklore, the eerie atmospherics, and the realistic performances, combined together, make “Moloch” a captivating watch, and it is definitely something that fans of the genre will savor.
“Moloch” is a 2022 drama horror film directed by Nico van den Brink.