The Sickle is a low-budget little indie film that proves you don’t have to toss a bunch of money into a production to create something thoughtful, dramatic and well acted. Granted, coherence and excitement would’ve been nice also, but nobody’s perfect.
Told in nonlinear fashion, the story revolves around Jacob Coates (Jamaal Khalil), a 12-year-old boy in the rural South (Louisiana?) who’s dealing with his mother’s recent death in a surprisingly mature fashion — more so than his father, at least, who slowly descends into madness. Specifically, after curing God for his plight, his dad is overcome with a malevolence that seems to be of supernatural origin.
Luckily, Jacob has a couple of adults in his corner. Well, maybe “lucky” is too strong a word, because his teacher Miss Jeanne (Sharon Swainson) and Father Gaudin (David Colacci), the priest at his local church, are pretty inept as guardians.
On the opposite side of the faith scale, they have clashing motives for wanting to keep Jacob safe. The agnostic Miss Jeanne (ironically named Faith) is concerned with his earthly well-being, while Father Gaudin is convinced the boy is somehow “special” and recruits him for some sort of spiritual war — presumably against demons he’s convinced have crossed over into our world.
Interspersed with scenes of the boy, his crazy dad and his two protectors are scenes of Jacob, presumably at a later date, being interviewed by a child psychologist, the child seemingly himself taken over by an entity that may or may not be evil (there are hints of the Angel of Death). He speaks in a condescending, adult tone about knowing (loving?) Miss Jeanne in a past life and the fact that an unnamed “he” is coming, at which point pretty much everyone will die…and he doesn’t seem too beat up about it.
It’s all fairly confounding, and although I assume it has to do with Armageddon, the mystery just isn’t interesting enough for the muddled ambiguity of demons, psychic ability, bringing people back from the dead, reincarnation and random blues musical numbers.
That said, despite some of writer D.A. Bullock’s shortcomings, director D.A. Bullock manages to craft a nice Southern Gothic atmospheric, aided by strong performances that sell the urgency of his script even though we’re not necessarily clear on what the “hell” is going on. Pun intended.