Review By: Alicia Glass
Studio: Blumhouse Productions
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Phil Joanou
Twenty years after the fact, the lone survivor of a cult suicide massacre returns to the scene of the crime with a film crew, for answers.
You really can’t be sure what to expect, even reading the synopsis and knowing who’s going to be in the film before watching it. Jessica Alba as Maggie Price, leader of the documentary crew returning to the site of the Heaven’s Veil compound, is no stranger to attempting odd horror flicks, as she did with The Eye and Awake. Lily Rabe as cult survivor aptly named Sarah Hope is also versed in horror, and she does a perfectly serviceable job as the chosen one of the movie. The rest of the cast that rounds out the camera crew are more or less completely normal, generally wanting to get the hell out of dodge as soon as the extra-creepy stuff starts happening. Perhaps the oddest choice for casting is Thomas Jane as the Jim-Jones-like cult leader, oh-so-originally named Jim Jacobs. Jane ends up looking like Jim Morrison would if he had found spirituality on the heels of alcoholism: all riotous hair, messiah whites, many necklaces, and tons of “I’m so wasted” cult followers.
So some 20-odd years ago, Jim convinced the entire Heaven’s Veil community to take the sugar cubes laced with some serious poison, and shock and surprise, everyone died. Everyone except one little scarred girl the cops and FBI found, coining her Sarah Hope as she couldn’t even recall her name. Now Maggie, who turns out to be the daughter of FBI Agent Price who was first on the scene of the Heaven’s Veil massacre, wants to revisit the old compound and find the ancient VHS tapes to learn what the hell Jim was attempting to do! The ruins are still standing, and across the river past the main house compound is Jim’s private residence, where indeed, the missing tapes are discovered. The camera crew sets up to record various parts of the house, and watch and digitize the VHS tapes, basically becoming their own watered-down version of Ghost Hunters. Because the spirit of Jim and his closest followers are still very much alive, and the house and surrounding grounds is the staging area for the biggest event of Jim, and even Sarah’s, lives!
Trying to understand the stuff Jim spouts as he rants in ecclesiastical fury about removing the nails that bind the spirit to the flesh to his congregation, makes about as much sense as any other spiritual whackjob you’ll find today, except for one thing. The compound and houses of the Heaven’s Veil cult really is haunted, and it looks like Jim and company just need two things to further the next stage of their psycho take-over-the-world plan. One is a catalyst, present in the returned form of Sarah herself, and the other, well. Rather powerful bent on world-conquering poltergeists need new bodies to inhabit, and oh look, here’s a whole unaware film crew, just waiting to be consumed and repurposed.
The haunted house and grounds concept comes over fairly well, as does the mood music to help heighten the tension. While the idea that a group of terrorizing ghosts led by their enigmatic and definitely psychotic leader will go out into the world to feed like demonic poltergeisty vampires on the living can work, the mind of their leader might have been a little too crazy for even the audience to understand. It takes a bit away from the good haunting vibe the film boasts.
You can get haunted by The Veil on Netflix right now!