Thirty 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.
January 19, 2016
Robert Ben Garant
Jessica Alba as Maggie Price
Thomas Jane as Jim Jacobs
Lily Rabe as Sarah Hope
Shannon Woodward as Jill
It seemed a curiosity that Blumhouse would release one of their latest films on Netflix as opposed to dropping it in theaters. Any time something like this happens, fans automatically leap to assume that the picture isn’t “good enough” for a theatrical release. There’s a little bit of shame in my disclosure that I myself had such an idea in mind. The Veil… straight to Netflix? This one’s gonna suck! That is exactly – likely syllable for syllable – what I thought when news broke that this (along with two other Blumhouse titles, Visions and Curve) one would bypass any theatrical time and land immediately in Netflix’s streaming line-up. It seems logical… right?
As it turns out, The Veil would have pulled in a fair haul at the box office were it afforded the promotional push it no doubt deserves. There’s no telling exactly what ran through the minds of execs when planning the marketing lead in to the eventual release of The Veil. Someone’s head was in the wrong place. The truth is, The Veil is a strong enough film to warrant a far greater deal of respect than Blumhouse or Chapter One Films was willing to extend. So, while it baffles the mind that the feature went to Netflix instantly, there’s a sizable portion of my inner fan-geek thanking all entities involved in escorting this film to the powerhouse VOD supplier we all love so much.
As for the story, well, it’s an interesting one. We open up and immediately believe we’re about to be sucked into the world of an outlandish and far-out thinking cult. And while that angle is detrimental to the story, it doesn’t remain the conflict at the forefront of the pic at all times. A number of unexpected twists keep the story moving along at a stealthy pace while avoiding the delivery of a film that seems to freely “borrow” content from other similar features. Make no doubt, you’ll spot a handful of genre clichés, but the turns the story takes before finally reaching its conclusion keep us a little off guard.
Are we watching a creepy cult flick?
Are we watching a ghost story?
Are we watching a slasher?
Is this your typical cabin in the woods kind of movie?
The answer to all of those questions, believe it or not, is yes. There’s a hint of all of those subgenres within the film, and it’s that willingness to blur the line time after time after time that ensures The Veil doesn’t leave us feeling cheated out of time, having just watched a picture already seen 1,000 times over again. Writer Robert Ben Garant and Director Phil Joanou give a dual middle finger to the rules of horror, and work their own vision that adopts mannerisms of countless other films (some from other genres) while injecting fresh ideas and a lot of organically grown energy. As I explain it, it probably sounds like a riddle gone south, but it’s not. Trust in the fact that this movie succeeds in a lot of ways that may leave you feeling as though it should have failed… and yet it doesn’t. It’s a tricky piece of work, no doubt.
There’s nothing but respect that goes out to the picture’s thespians. Jessica Alba does a great job as the strong-willed final girl. Thomas Jane is nearly unrecognizable as the cult leader Jim Jacobs who leads his few dozen followers in a mission of mass suicide; he kills the role, for the record. And then you’ve got impressive supporters like Lily Rabe who’s perfectly impossible to read as Sarah. Shannon Woodward is awesome as the babe with her head firmly attached to her body… in fact, if the focal group in the film had listened to this cutie they just may have escaped with their lives. To keep it all short and simple, these young actors do a terrific job of selling intense, emotional characters.
The film looks excellent, capitalizing on desolate locations, properly rural scenery and thick walls of fog floating across the screen. Speaking of aesthetics alone, The Veil is a superb viewing experience. The sound, it should be noted, is also crisp and mirrors the story’s image. It’s just a very well assembled film that I fear could go unheralded due to that questionable release decision. The Veil deserves a lot more attention.
If you’re after a viewing experience that feels both familiar and foreign simultaneously, The Veil is for you. If you’re a Jessica Alba fan, this movie is for you. If you’re on the hunt for the closest thing to perfection, you may find a few too many script inconsistencies to issue a thumbs up. For me, when it comes to horror I have just one single request. And that single request is to be entertained. The Veil entertained. Kudos goes out to a hard working crew who put together an inspired little indie film that – fingers crossed – one day may really catch on wit fans.