Horror Movie Review: Lord of Misrule (2023)

Written by Tom de Ville and directed by William Brent Bell, Lord of Misrule reimagines the 16th century British folklore Christmas tradition as something far more sinister. Taking most of its cues from folk horror that came before, the end result is a tepid experience that is far too long, and ends in wholly unsatisfying circumstances.

Tuppence Middleton plays Rebecca Holland, a vicar who has recently moved to a small and charming village somewhere in the north of England. Alongside her husband, Henry (Matt Stokoe) and young daughter, Grace (Evie Templeton) they have worked hard to become part of the community, even if Christianity isn’t a hot subject here.

Though, they seem to have been accepted, as Grace is to be the star of a yearly tradition, the harvest festival. One that involves merriment all round, and includes light paganistic elements such as the Lord of Misrule driving off the demon, Gallowgog. It’s all fun and games, until Grace disappears and nobody can find her.

With the police dragging their heels, the townspeople more interested in vigils for Grace than helping, and her husband trying to keep things calm (as if anyone could be in this situation), Rebecca starts to discover dark secrets about this small village. One, in particular, pertains to another missing child that was never found, and that child’s father Jocelyn Abney (Ralph Ineson) has some sinister suspects.

The more Rebecca digs, the more she unearths, and the more terrifying things become for her. The fate of her entire family is at stake.

Which you will know constantly throughout, because Lord of Misrule thinks you’re stupid, so spells everything out to such a degree, it’s frustrating. Yet, what really makes its egregious storytelling so much worse, is the fact that the main character of Rebecca struggles to put it all together, right up to the very end. Most, if not all viewers, will know where this film is going by the halfway point, yet it drags its heels to the point of absurdity.

Something that removes all tension and intrigue too. Although it doesn’t have much of either anyway. How can you feel tense when you can spot every single direction it is going in? How can you feel intrigue when everything is spelled out? As for scares? It amounts to nothing but bad jump scares and constant imagery of locks of hair, supposedly creepy pictures, and twigs twisted to look like symbols. Don’t be surprised if you start to get second-hand embarrassment from the film’s desperate attempt to be scary.

Perhaps this would have been passable if the movie had an original bone in its body, but it doesn’t. Every folk horror before it, has done this, and there’s no excuse for such a tepid rehash. Good acting and some skill when it comes to cinematography can’t make up for the simply gargantuan amount of flaws in this film.

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Should you drag your way through to the end, Lord of Misrule rewards your patience by insulting you with a shockingly poor ending. One that offers no real insight into events, explains little about the future, and feels rushed. Which is hilarious when you consider how slow the majority of it is.

Lord of Misrule is a bad horror film, because it underwhelms in almost every single department. Forget this one, just go watch a good folk horror film like The Wicker Man or Midsommar.


  • Carl Fisher

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Lord of Misrule (2023)
  • The Final Score - 4/10
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