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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Horror DVD Of The Week: The Veil (2016)


The Veil taps directly into one of my favourite sub-genres of horror: films about freaky cults.

Twenty-five years after the mass suicide of members of Heaven's Veil cult, a documentary crew return to the isolated site - accompanied by the only survivor, Sarah Hope (Lily Rabe) - to try and figure out what happened that day.

The documentary crew is fronted by Maggie Price (Jessica Alba), the daughter of the FBI officer who led the raid on the cult compound (and later hanged himself).

Sarah takes them to an undiscovered building on the far side of a lake, where they discover old films shot by cult leader Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane), documenting his experiments to conquer death.

As the crew starts to watch the films, strange, ghostly manifestations begin in and around the old building...

Although it uses footage from these "home movies", along with some news footage of coverage of the original mass suicide, The Veil is - hallelujah - most definitely not a found footage film.

Directed by Phil Joanou, who also made the superb Punisher fan film, Dirty Laundry, with Thomas Jane back in 2012, the film does resort to the occasional cheap and unnecessary jump scare, but largely relies on a fast-escalating sense of  increasing isolation and apocalyptic doom.

It uses a crafty Hitchcockian trick of letting us see characters get killed off out of sight of the survivors, only for them to return a scene or two later, so we know "something" has happened to them, but the other people in the scene just carry on as normal.

And this is is one of those rare horror movies where people behave in a convincing manner. Despite Maggie's driven obsession to get to the bottom of the mystery, as soon as things start going a bit pear-shaped, the rest of her crew are quite determined to get the hell out of Dodge ASAP.

The plot comes served up with a clever twist as well, that ties Maggie's father into the deaths in an unexpected way, and only serves to accentuate the dark tone Joanou is striving for.

My main quibble with the story - and unfortunately it's a key point - is that everything hinges on the FBI having not found the abandoned house 25 years earlier. Given that the cult deaths are said to have been the largest mass suicide on American soil, I find it a bit far fetched to believe that the FBI didn't spend weeks, if not months, combing the compound for clues. Surely someone would have spotted the path to this house, albeit on the far side of the lake?

While the supporting cast are all spot-on (for instance, Reid Scott plays a character not too dissimilar to his snarky Dan Egan from Veep), The Veil is primarily propelled forward by its three central performances: the two leading ladies, the Fantastic Four's Jessica Alba and Lily Rabe (star of several seasons of American Horror Story), and Thomas Jane.

Jane is superb as the frighteningly convincing Jim Jones-like Jim Jacobs (do you see what they did there?), whose style is more Manson-meets-Elvis than new Messiah.

The ending, while thematically powerful, is a bit of a jumble, yet Jane's charisma sends a shiver down your spine and keeps you riveted as he declares his occult ambitions for the world.

2 comments:

  1. Saw about a new film (to be released on July 22nd) , called "Lights Out" looks rather "scary"...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I believe I saw the trailer for that a few days ago as well, but will keep an eye out for the actual release.

      Delete

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