The Veil is a horror movie that released January 2016. It had no theater release, but instead went straight to VOD and Netflix. Despite being a straight to “video” (for lack of a better term) movie, it has a solid cast, is not a low budget movie, and actually stands up to many theater horror films. It seems to be a film that challenges the idea that “straight to video” means bad.
In the 1980s Jim Jacobs founds a cult, with the specific goal of proving that death is not permanent, though no one outside the cult knew that was his goal. The cult site is raided, and it is discovered that all the members committed suicide, with only one young girl having survived. In the present the girl, Sarah, is contacted by film maker Maggie. Maggie wants to take Sarah back to the cult site in order to discover what happened, and why the members all killed themselves. When they get there, Sarah slowly uncovers her memories of Jim’s goal, while Maggie admits to be the daughter of one of the FBI agents that raided the site. As the two of them, and Maggie’s crew, search for answers they begin to experience paranormal activity, and are attacked.
The Veil suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It sets up a very compelling “cult leader, killer” plot line, but then jumps ship to a paranormal ghost story. It’s not that the ghost story is bad, nor is it that the cult story is. However neither really seem to connect correctly. Instead you are left with the feeling that the people working on the film attempted to combine two horror sub-genres, hoping to come up with something unique. That being said the plot is not horrible. It’s not the greatest story you will get in a horror movie, but it’s interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged.
Thomas Jane does an exceptional job, as the cult leader Jim Jacobs. He personifies the crazy, yet charismatic person we expect him to be. The background characters also do a good job, filling their roles, and doing the most with their limited screen time. Shockingly the probably top billed Jessica Alba and Lily Rabe are the worst of the group. It’s not that either of them do a poor job (they do not), but they have very little range. Sarah and Maggie both stay rather stiff and hollow throughout the entire movie, despite how much they are discovering, and how many horrible things happen. They are completely eclipsed by the rest of the cast, which is surprising and a little disappointing.
The filming could also use a little work. The movie was planned to be found footage, and I am glad they scrapped that idea. However the film lacks any interesting camera angles or shots. In replacement for those, there are fish-eye lenses, and strong use of filters. The grey filter over the entire film works well, it fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. However nothing makes up for the fact that the camera is pretty much set up in a straight on shot the entire movie. It suffers from a need to really work on the creative use of the camera.
All that being said it’s not a bad movie. While it’s hardly going to top my list for favorite horror films it has it’s moments. It focuses more on suspense and story than gore, which is welcome considering gore porn has kind of over taken horror. The story again has it’s missteps, but is interesting. The pacing is hit or miss, but is overall solid. The movie is good, not great, but good.
It also begs the question of what it means to be a “straight to video” movie in this day and age. It’s not the expected b flick that is cringe worthy, but funny. It’s a solid horror film that stands up to many that we’ve actually seen in theaters. I have to give it credit, movie sales are progressively getting worse meaning movies like this would suffer from a box office release. However it doesn’t take “straight to video” to mean “we can be lazy”. Despite knowing it would never be on the big screen, great care and effort was put into making this movie solid.
I can’t say it’s good, but I can’t say it’s bad either. It was an interesting experience, and one I am ultimately glad I had. I have my complaints, specifically with the boring use of the camera, and the confused story. That being said it was an ok experience. It’s one I would recommend, just with the disclaimer of “you will not love it”. It certainly over comes the “straight to video” expectations that I had.