Thursday, 29 September 2016

Thursday Movie Picks #116: Cults and Secret Societies


A new Thursday Movie Picks for you this week, and this week it's Cults and secret societies. Please visit http://wanderingthroughtheshelves.blogspot.co.uk/



It was almost ten years after the film was released that The Wicker Man began to get the acclaim that it deserved. Released as a supporting picture to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (could you imagine a better double bill?) is stars Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie, a policeman who has been called to investigate the disappearance of a young girl on the island of Summerisle. On that Island lives a pagan community, led by Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), whose attitudes towards sex repulse the conservative Christian Howie.

A stunning, unnerving atmosphere is masterly maintained by Robin Hardy who expertly leaves the audience in the dark as much as Howie is about the true intentions of natives. This builds up the atmosphere to the film’s unforgettable conclusion (which is somewhat ruined by the DVD cover). Led by an excellent performance from Edward Woodward The Wicker Man works as an interesting character study as Conservative Christian Howie struggles to come to terms with the Pagan’s beliefs, and free loving attitude towards sex which go against Howie’s beliefs, much to his bafflement and disgust. Christopher Lee’s menacing performance puts him high on a plinth of memorable horror villains, and the film’s conclusion is a highlight of the horror genre. Unearthly, unreal and chilling The Wicker Man is cult classic.



The Veil stars Jessica Alba as a documentary filmmaker who wants to find out what happened to the members of Heaven’s Vail who all supposedly committed suicide in a bid of devotion to their leader Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane). In order to do this, Maggie Price (Alba) recruits the help of the only known survivor Sarah Hope (Lily Rabe). Clearly based on American cult leader Jim Jones, the film takes a supernatural turn rather than focusing on what would have been a billion times more unnerving and scary. The fact that Jim Jones managed to convince over 900 people to commit suicide is far more disturbing and unnerving. Unfortunately, director Phil Joanou takes the supernatural route, but despite that the film is enjoyable enough, the performances are good enough (Thomas Jane is in full scenery chewing mode) and the scares scary enough for The Veil to be a mostly enjoyable film.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (MMMM for short) has been dubbed a psychological thriller, but the film is not a thriller in the traditional sense as it is a film that relies on an increasingly unnerving atmosphere that makes one feel very uneasy. The flashback and present day strands of the narrative are cut so well together that at first one is not entirely sure of where they are, and at first this can be slightly disorientating, also one is never sure if Martha’s flashbacks are real or a product of her imagination.

First time director Sean Durkin does a stunning job at making the audience feel paranoid making MMMM work staggeringly well as a horror film (but the film still remains more of psychological thriller), however there is just that one occasion where MMMM slips into outright horror. Led by a superb performance by Lizzie Olsen, who nails every emotion from depression to paranoia, Martha Marcy May Marlene is tense, gripping stuff made even more uncomfortable by the charming and charismatic but very sinister performance by the superb John Hawkes. The ending is abrupt and ambiguous, but leaves the audience almost begging for more. There are hundreds of thousands of questions that the audience asks, but the lack of answers makes one more confused by events on screen.

19 comments:

  1. Wow never heard of The Veil! I love Lily Rabe from American Horror Story and the subject seems interesting so despite Alba being in it which is not a good sign, I'll try to see this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lily Rabe is pretty good in the film. I'm not Alba's biggest fan but I am surprised she's this unpopular.

      Delete
  2. I haven't seen THE WICKER MAN (I saw the remake and I hated it) and I've never even heard of THE VEIL. I liked MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never heard of The Veil. I don't like Jessica Alba that much, but the premise sounds very interesting. I also choose MMMM as you saw. I need to see the original Wicker Man. I've only seen the Nic Cage remake and we all know how that one turned out. lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always good to pick an unknown film.

      Delete
  4. Nice choices. I've only seen The Wicker Man and that is one bizarre and strange movie while still being very good.

    I've been meaning to see Martha....etc. but it slips my mind when I go looking for new things but this is the second time I've seen it today so that should spur me on.

    The Veil is a new one to me but sounds like it could be worth checking out though I agree that what Jim Jones did was far more disturbing than any supernatural occurrence could be.

    This theme by its nature leads to heavier fare and that's what my three are though my first has a lot of dark humor.

    12 Monkeys (1995)-In the future a deadly virus has wiped out most of mankind forcing those who remain to formulate a society underground while animals roam free on the desolate surface. James Cole (Bruce Willis), one of the workers in the underground world, has been selected by the ruling body to travel back in time and try to stop the secret society of the Twelve Monkeys who are believed to have instigated the plague. After a few misplacements in time he arrives in the present day and tries to find answers all the time pursued by people who think he’s insane. Potent, grim and fascinating with a completely unhinged performance by Brad Pitt that landed him an Oscar nomination.

    Ticket to Heaven (1981)-Reeling at the end of a long-time relationship with his girlfriend a young man (Nick Mancuso) seeking a change unwittingly falls in with a cult and is soon brainwashed and isolated. His best friend goes to great lengths to rescue him from their clutches and assist in his deprogramming but the cult does not let go easily. Intense, brutal low budget Canadian drama is loaded with now familiar faces including Kim Cattrall, Meg Foster and Saul Rubinek.

    The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970)-For the last 20 plus years a successful college professor (Glenn Ford) has belonged to a secret Ivy League society, The Brotherhood of the Bell, without being asked to actively participate in its inner workings. At the latest initiation a request is made of him with which he is leery to comply but does so against his better judgment leading to tragedy. Disgusted he attempts to exit the group but only as his life is systemically destroyed does he come to realize how insidious and far reaching the power of The Bell is. Premiered on television in the US but shown theatrically abroad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard of 12 Monkeys (obviously) but never seen it despite it being in my DVD collection for years. I like the sound of The Brotherhood of the Bell, I'll put it on the list.

      Delete
  5. Heard great things about Martha Marcy May Marlene, I'll have to check it out soon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've never heard of The Veil but really interested in it now. I love Lily Rabe. And MMMM was a popular pick this week and I've never seen it! But I'll definitely be checking it out after all the attention it's received this week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll be glad to hear Lily Rabe is pretty good in The Veil.

      Delete
  7. I did see The Wicker Man but when i was very young and just remember the animal faces and being terrified. I haven't seen the other 2 but they sound intriguing although i don't like scaryy movies

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MMMM isn't really a horror movie, it's a thriller with disturbing elements but it's not a typical horror with jump scares.

      Delete
  8. I'm another one who hasn't heard of The Veil. And I'm hesitant because of Alba's presence. I have seen your other two picks. Both are excellent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm quite surprised that Jessica Alba is that unpopular. I know she isn't a great actress but still surprised.

      Delete
  9. I've seen the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicked Man and it was hilariously bad, but I've heard the original one is great. I'll watch it, sooner or later.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I went for the original Wicker Man too. I get chills when I think of MMMM, something disturbing about how it all plays our especially with that ending. The Veil sounds good too, plus I love Lily Rabe.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can't believe I forgot all about The Wicker Man. I love the original.

    ReplyDelete