Distanced from Astron-6’s darkly funny aesthetic, it becomes just another genre flick defined by its borrowed parts.
The notion of a church being the last outpost for humanity has seldom been as chilling as it is in Red State.
Although BORDERLAND is an entertaining movie, it’s not one of the better examples in our Loud Green Bird series on cults in horror. Its refusal to develop its story’s occult themes (by taking them seriously) removes a powerful source of horror.
The way that the cult theme drives the story in Zal Batmanglij’s SOUND OF MY VOICE is similar to its role in the plot of Riley Stearns’ FAULTS. In both films, the mystery centers around whether or not the central cult figure’s non-conformist beliefs are true. In SOUND OF MY VOICE, that figure is Maggie (Brit Marling). Her outlandish claim is that she’s a time traveler from the future.
Keating chooses an interesting angle to tell his tale, to the point where we’re left wondering just what type of story this is. For a long stretch, the cult isn’t even (visually) present; and even when it finally appears, the members’ ultimate motive is left to speculation.
I love films that can present a story without feeling the need to explain every detail. I appreciate a filmmaker with enough respect and faith in the audience’s ability to draw their own conclusions and fill in the gaps. We have become lazy as movie viewers. The filmmaker shouldn’t need to answer every why or how in order to get their point across. If a film’s ambiguity leaves us unsettled or disturbed, the filmmaker has done his/her job.
The dark comedy and crime drama aspects of FAULTS (2014) get a lot of play in reviews. This focus is understandable because the film is excellent in these areas. Yet some reviewers overlook or miss its horror features. In fact, it is a horror movie in subtle disguise. Writer-director Riley Stearns uses psychological and supernatural horror tropes to good effect in the film. Both types of horror come from the beliefs and practices of Faults, a religious cult from which deprogrammer Ansel (Leland Orser) attempts to rescue Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
The common factor of most cults is they don’t appear dangerous at the beginning. They appeal to those looking for guidance and acceptance. They offer understanding and a chance to be part of something important. It is only after the person has been lured in do they realize the price of belonging is the sacrifice of everything they have and their complete subjugation. STARRY EYES is more than a cautionary tale about a naive starlet sucked into the seedy side of show business. It is Hollywood as a cult, feeding on ambition to achieve its demonic ends.
(Thanks to Benjamin Gibson – @CoastalRoadNine on Twitter – for reminding me about this great film, and giving me an excuse to re-watch it.) There are days… Read more “Cults in Horror Movies: End of the Line (2007)”
In the opening post of this series, Ti West’s The Sacrament served as an example of a movie that depicts a textbook “dangerous cult.” But such sinister sects don’t have to be as large as Father’s (or as diverse) to induce a reaction of horror in audiences. In other recent and effective horror films, the cultic groups have been as small as the nuclear family.