Twenty-five years after members of a religious cult committed mass suicide, the lone survivor returns to the scene of the tragedy with a documentary crew in tow.
Here’s a curiosity from the book of ‘How’d This Come about Again?’ The Veil stars Jessica Alba, the nation’s sweetheart and star of things such as Sin City and Fantastic Four (The one that wasn’t good. No, the other one that wasn’t good). There’s also Lily Rabe, who most will know from multiple series of American Horror Story. Finally there’s Thomas Jane, star of The Punisher and every straight to DVD film in the last decade. To me, it seems a strange combination, but here they all are, in this gloomy horror about cults.
Alba plays Maggie Price, a documentary filmmaker putting together a film on cult leader Jim Jacobs (Jane) and his cult of the Heaven’s Veil. Twenty-five years previously, Jacobs encouraged his followers to commit suicide, claiming he could bring them back to life. Classic cult behavior as seen in Heaven’s Gate and the Jonestown Massacre. Anyway, as usually happens when you down poison, he and his followers died, leaving only a child by the name of Sarah behind. Maggie approaches the now grown Sally (Rabe) with the hopes of convincing her to return to the grounds of the cult and talk about what really happened.
It would be a short film if Sarah said no, so off she, Maggie and her crew go into the woods. And all is not as it seems, for Jacobs’ ghost, and those of his followers, still haunt the grounds looking for fresh nubile, documentary making bodies to possess. Meanwhile, Maggie et al uncover some old 8mm films that suggest that Jacobs was looking into more than just spirituality.
Originally slated to be a found footage film, Alba had to have the story repitched to her when it was decided that a more cinematic approach was needed. It’s purely conjecture on my part but the need to pitch again may have had something with a little found footage film called The Sacrament from director Ti West. With Jim Jones being more than a passing influence for both Jacobs and The Sacrament’s Father, It’s understandable that director Phil Joanou (Gridiron Gan) would want to change tact. After all, the world barely contained itself when Antz and A Bug’s Life hit the theatres, so who knows what would have happened if TWO Jim Jones flicks hit us all where it hurt. It’d be Volcano versus Dante’s Peak all over again. Won’t somebody think of the children!
Sadly, despite all attempts to blow as much fresh air on the film as possible, The Veil is a hum-drum affair that wouldn’t have been noticed ordinarily if it weren’t for the presence of its three leads. Despite stretching beyond the restraint of a forced POV, the film doesn’t do anything to warrant its new scope. Even if you’re new to spooky goings on in the woods – which, let’s be fair, can happen – you’ll be hard pushed not to recognize the clichés put on display. Things lurking in the shadows, jump scares, scenes going quiet then annoyingly loud, people walking slowly whilst frowning to show that they’re possessed. It’s all a bit tired.
Equally this a film where logic doesn’t exist. When one of their number is found dead due to excessive application of their car into a tree, the group decide to stay because… it’s too far to walk? With no phone reception and a dead body going nowhere, I, personally, would exit stage life singing all the way. But that’s just me. I’m a fully fleshed person with a multitude of feelings and emotional depth. These are people with limited scope who are merely fodder for Jacobs’ and his ghoulish cronies.
For that is the other issue at hand. Despite a respectable cast, no one is given much to do. Alba looks scared, Rabe cries and Jane literally sleepwalks throughout. It would fascinating to see what the film would have looked like under its original found footage incarnation. Because as it is, I’m reluctant to say The Veil is fail, but it is true. Plus it has a ring to it, though I don’t see it making the DVD cover.