Written By: Lois Kennedy
Directed by: Phil Joanou
Cast: Jessica Alba, Lily Rabe, Thomas Jane, Aleksa Palladino, Amber Friendly, Shannon Woodward
Produced by Blumhouse and written by Robert Ben Garant, who also penned Hell Baby and Jessabelle. In the 1980s, the Heaven’s Veil cult committed mass suicide. 25 years later, lone survivor Sarah is persuaded to return to the scene by a documentary crew who’s looking for unreleased videos made by the cult. The director Maggie and the editor Christian are the children of the FBI agent who took out cult leader Jim Jacobs the day of the suicide. Once at the ranch, odd happenings (like Ed the grip running off in their only means of transportation) soon convince them that Jacobs’s spirit may still be around. Nevertheless, Maggie and Sarah are obsessed with finding out what happened, even at the expense of the lives of everyone around them.
It’s not scary; mostly it relies on jump scares that are easy to see coming. One scene actually made me laugh: Sarah falls over, thinking she broke a chair; it turns out she put her hand through a corpse. It resembles slapstick more than anything, and her disgusted reaction is unexpectedly comic. Also amusing are the cliches used with a straight face, like telling a missing person to “stop messing around,” and even the classic “This isn’t funny.” The movie does have its disturbing moments, like a five-year-old Sarah telling her rescuers regarding the piles of corpses surrounding her, “Don’t worry, they’re not dead. He’s gonna bring them back.”
The movie is also a bit confusing at times; Jacobs is shown bringing a girl out of a coma with his powers, showing both that he’s legit and capable of doing good things. Jacobs plans to really bring people back from the dead, and legitimately figures out how. However, his modern-day killing spree makes him harder to empathize with.
Not that the main characters are easy to root for either; instead of taking the movies and leaving, or resolving to come back for them, they sit in “Jim’s special place” and watch them even as they disappear one by one. The female characters are easy to tell apart, as three of them are fairly prominent actresses: Maggie (Jessica Alba), Sarah (Lily Rabe), and Jill (Shannon Woodward). The guys are less recognizable actors, and they’re all white with facial hair. It’s a good thing Maggie introduces them by name and profession early in the movie.
It’s not my favorite suicide cult movie (that’s The Sacrament), but it’s interesting and only somewhat predictable. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for talented, recognizable actors and some good ideas.