Monday, January 25, 2016

Film Review: The Veil (2016)

The Veil (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not a poorly-made film, but it is utterly disappointing."

Twenty-five years after a religious cult commits mass suicide, filmmaker Maggie Price (Jessica Alba) contacts Sarah Hope (Lily Rabe), the only known survivor of the suicide, in hopes of creating a documentary about the incident...

The Veil follows Sarah, Maggie, and Maggie's documentary crew. The group visit Heaven's Veil, where the mass suicide occurred, and begin investigation. Sarah leads the crew to an old house that was not found by the FBI during the raid. At this dilapidated shed, the group stumble upon a recording room, a tape, and several rolls of film. So, the group watch the film and discover details about the incident. We learn more about Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane), the cult leader, and his intentions – escape the human form and live for eternity. From here, the film jumps back-and-forth between Maggie's work and Jacobs' found footage. (It's not shaky found footage we know from other films, but they do technically find his footage.) There are a few interesting plot points here, but nothing surprising. Even at a measly 90 minutes, the film felt a bit bloated – some notable filler and unnecessarily long-winded scenes. The ending was decent. It felt a bit rushed, but it was okay.

I really wanted to love The Veil. First and foremost, I always appreciate a film that moves away from the 'incorporeal ghost in a suburban house' genre – I think we've seen enough of that. This cult story offers an interesting plot. Sure, it's not the most groundbreaking narrative ever created, but it offers a breath of fresh air in a suffocating genre. The film also nails the eerie atmosphere. Perhaps it was the grungy style or maybe it was the subject-matter, but the film often feels ominous. I liked some of the visuals, too — it often tries its hand at something a bit more surreal. Unfortunately, the suspense is kept at a minimum and the jump-scares aren't very shocking. So, I would say The Veil is more moody than scary. It's not the end of the world, but it is disappointing.

The Veil is a disappointing film – I suppose that's the best way to describe it. You see, as much as I wanted to love it, it always failed to meet me halfway. Okay, so the plot injects something a bit interesting for the genre. Unfortunately, the plot still opts for the same genre flaws and clich├ęs. It relies too much on jump-scares. Like many supernatural horror films, the final acts turns into a silly slasher. There are many blatant plot contrivances. ("Oh, hey, let me go into this house by myself for some reason when we can all go together. That's not stupid at all.") The characters are also very dim and generic. Maggie is your typical "okay, a few people died because of my persistence, but we can't stop now"-type of character. Then, when characters start acting blatantly out of character and deviously smirking, other characters respond by furrowing their brows and shrugging – What?! These are all flaws on top of the filler and bloating.

The performances are also hit-or-miss. Jessica Alba was decent in this film. She could have been so much more, but she was hindered by her cardboard character. Most of her dialogue consists of her calling out names for crying out loud. I enjoyed Thomas Jane's enthusiasm, but he was ill-fitted for the character. He's filled with conviction, but he's severely lacking in the 'cult leader'-charisma department. By the end of the film, he seemed more like a cartoon than a human. I liked the style of the film, but I thought the cinematography was a little hard on the eyes, especially the strange lens they went with – the sides looked too curved. (I'm sure it wasn't my TV, but maybe I'm crazy.) The film was written by Robert Ben Grant and directed by Phil Joanou. The writing and direction failed to conjure any significant scares and failed to deviate from the generic formula. The film is competently-made and there are some interesting tidbits here, but there was nothing particularly frightening or exciting about this film.

Overall, The Veil is a mediocre horror film. It's not a poorly-made film, but it is utterly disappointing. It had so many opportunities to be more, but it instead opts to be less – it didn't even strive for good enough. The story is interesting, but it's also bloated and often dull. It's atmospheric, but it's not frightening. There are some decent performances, then there are some unintentionally humorous ones. It's a film that makes a promise and breaks it several times before the end. If you're a fan of the Blumhouse brand of horror, you might enjoy this. Even then, I'd recommend trying something a bit more unique, like Creep.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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