Platform: Netflix on Roku
Starring: AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, directed by Ti West
Another found-footage horror flick. I know...yawn. Been there, done that, re-wound that piece of footage. I'm not hater, but it's getting to the point where there has to be something special about the film for me to show an even rudimentary interest. Like with Willow Creek earlier this month. That was a movie I really wanted to see because of the director involved. Same this with this film. My interest is directly tied to the filmmaker.
Ti West is probably my favorite recent director in the genre. The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, his segment in V/H/S. All great stuff. And I wasn't too interested in a found-footage film that mirrored many of the events of the Jonestown Massacre, but when I found out that Ti West was involved I knew I was all in. I have high hopes.
Here we have a fashion photographer whose sister is a recovering drug addict. She joined a religious community in the South someplace as a part of her recovery. After not hearing from her from quite a while, he receives a letter from him stating that all is well and hoping he could come visit her. The letter included a contact telephone number. When he calls, he's told by the man who answers that his sister had moved out of the country with the rest of the community and that she could only be reached, mysteriously, by helicopter. VICE magazine convinces him to let them accompany him on his trip to document the adventure, and the game is afoot.
They arrived at a commune named Eden Parish only to be met by armed guards who are perturbed at the appearance of a film crew. After some initial tense moments, they are allowed through the gates where they are greeted by the man's sister who shows them around the place. Have you read or seen anything about Jonestown? Yeah...it looks like that. Have your read or seen anything about Jim Jones? Yeah...that's the guy who runs this commune. A older Southern gentlemen who everyone refers to as "Father".
At first, of course, the commune appears to be a true Utopia. It's a beautiful place and everyone seems to be genuinely at peace, but the journalists can't help but feel uneasy about the whole situation. Father treated them well and with respect, but he also dominated them with the power of his charisma. His message to them had an undertone of real danger. Then a young mute girl hands one of the journalists a note that says "Please save us". And the facade begins to crumble.
It's ever bit as disturbing, violent and tragic as what we might imagine to have happened that day in 1978 when a charismatic cult leader decided that mass murder was the final solution. There are some truly difficult scenes toward the end of the film. Hard to watch. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
Verdant Dude Rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkin ales