(director/writer/editor: Ti West; cinematographer: Eric Robbins; music: Tyler Bates; cast: AJ Bowen (Sam), Joe Swanberg (Jake), Amy Seimetz (Caroline), Gene Jones (Father), Kentucker Audley (Patrick), Kate Lyn Sheil (Sarah), Talia Dobbins (Savannah), Donna Biscoe (Wendy), Lashaun Clay (Robert), Dale Neal (Aridre); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Eli Roth/Peter Phok*Christopher Woodrow/Jacob Jaffke/Molly Conners; Magnolia Pictures; 2013)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ti West(“The House of the Devil“/”The Innkeepers”/”Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever“) is writer-director-editor of this unimaginative shocker. The horror pic is about a mass suicide, shot in a mock documentary style by framing the story around found footage. It’s based on the infamous Jonestown massacre of 1978. Therefore it offers no surprises.
New York fashion photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) is concerned about his recovering drug addict sister, Caroline (Amy Seimetz). He learns she checked into a Mississippi sober-living community and has been relocated with a large group to an undisclosed country. Patrick accepts an invitation to come visit her, and convinces his colleagues, investigative reporter Sam (A.J Bowen) and videographer Jake (Joe Swanberg), from the multimedia outlet Vice, to accompany him to get a story. After a complicated helicopter flight to Guyana they end up at the remote Christian settlement of Eden Parish. Once there they interview a folksy Southern Baptist preacher (Gene Jones) known only as Father, who heads the self-sustaining Christian cult community and has quite a hold on the group who think they have landed in utopia. If you can remember the saying that originated from the 1970’s of “drink the Kool-Aid,” you will know where things are going and not have to waste time seeing the whole film. It has nothing new to say about that incident, and would have been better served as a straight documentary.
The pic is excellently photographed and the acting is reasonably good, considering the actors are portraying brainwashed converts. Unfortunately that’s not enough of a recommendation for a flick that has some 167 deaths and still feels flat.
REVIEWED ON 12/3/2014 GRADE: C+