THE VEIL (2016)
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Flick opens in 1985 where the members of the Heaven’s Veil cult, under the leadership of the charismatic Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane), all partake in what appears to be a mass suicide…all but one five year-old girl, Sarah (Ivy George from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Krampus). Twenty-five years later Sarah (now Lily Rabe) is all grown up and still haunted by that fateful day. She is contacted by filmmaker Maggie Price (Jesscia Alba) who wants to make a documentary about the cult and wants to return to the place where it all happened, with Sarah as her guide. Maggie has a personal investment in investigating the event, as her dad was one of the FBI agents who arrived at the site and what happened there drove him to suicide as well. Once at the compound, Maggie and crew are led to a secret house beyond the grounds that the authorities missed…a house were all Jim Jacobs’ secrets are hidden…and a house where something still roams it’s halls.
Directed by Phil Joanou (Three O’Clock High, State Of Grace) and written by Robert Ben Garant this supernatural horror is a bit of a mixed bag, but an entertaining enough one, thanks to heavy atmosphere from Joanou. A lot of suspension of disbelief is also required to enjoy this. But, if you can get passed the far-fetched notion that generators, lights and even electrical devices like VCRs and projectors, would actually function…and the film stored there would still be watchable…after being left for over two decades in an overgrown and musty old house, than this can be a spooky little flick. Director Phil Loanou gives this horror some really spooky atmosphere and some legitimately creepy bits, along with some nicely executed jump scares and it’s only in the last act were it looses it’s grip a bit. There is a nice reveal in that last act that adds some weight, but the film also goes a bit overboard with it’s supernatural story and while Joanou maintains the atmosphere, things get a bit convoluted when it’s haunting story crosses into murder, resurrection and revenge. It was working on simpler level and it tries to accomplish too much in it’s final third and it does get a bit silly and messy. Still, there are enough moments earlier on to make this worth checking out and even in those climactic moments, the unsettling atmosphere does remain and it helps alleviate how preposterous it all gets. Obviously, characters also do some dumb things to put themselves in harm’s way, but it is the rare horror flick where that doesn’t happen, so we’ll cut it a break on that point.
The cast are fine. Jane seems to behaving a good time and is quite disturbing as Jacobs. He keeps him mostly grounded in the flashbacks…his conviction in his beliefs and charisma giving credence to his following…until the last act requires him to go over-the-top and he does so appropriately. Alba is good as Maggie. A driven young woman who has a personal stake in unlocking secrets to this horrible event. She also keeps it grounded, which worked better for the character. Lily Rabe is convincing as the emotionally troubled survivor, though her odd behavior does prematurely signal she may have a hidden agenda, aside from simply aiding this film crew. The supporting players all range from decent to adequate and none of them undo Joanou’s atmosphere, which helps when things get loopy.
Overall, I am going to cut this flick some slack as the atmosphere and creepiness prevalent in the first two thirds worked very well. I liked the initial story and while it did loose me a bit in it’s final act and went a little overboard with certain elements, director Phil Joanou kept the atmosphere going. There was a nice reveal in the final third that helped even the balance as things got a bit silly and the cast showed restraint when needed and went over-the-top when called for. Not completely successful with what it tried to accomplish, or anything new, but a veteran director demonstrates that a skilled hand can make a film far better than it should have been with it’s uneven script and overambitious ideas. Worth a look.