What Kind Of Person Joins “The Faith Community” ?

Posted: September 28, 2018 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away : in this case of director Faith R. Johnson’s 2017 “found footage” direct-to-video horror, The Faith Community, he (or she) appears to do a bit of both.

On the “giveth” side of the ledger, we’re not saddled with anything too extraneous here, plot-wise, in Johnson and co-writer Robert A. Trezza’s script : college-age students Hannah (played by Janessa Floyd) and Andrew (Aidan Hart) are devout Christians determined to win over their skeptic friend (and wannabe-filmmaker, he’s the guy “documenting” the proceedings) Colin (Jeffrey Brabent) and, to that end, they’re taking him to a much-talked-about “Bible camp” in the woods to experience the wonder of “God’s Green Earth” or something. It’s a simple, punchy premise that does the job quickly and succinctly, and once they arrive, shit gets pretty interesting — at first.

A rather graphic, even brutal, stage-play rendition of the story of Adam and Eve is the “entertainment” on offer for our protagonists’ first evening at Camp Nazareth, but it’s not the amateur theatrics that the trio is particularly interested in : they’re hot to meet the group’s leader, a charismatic figure known only as “The Messenger” (Jeremy Harris). Their “mockumentary” interviews with said Messenger, his right-hand man/cousin Michael (Oliver Palmer), and the various “happy campers” are uniformly gripping and smartly-written, with Harris’ performance going some way toward making even making them fun, as he’s clearly relishing his chance to play cult guru, and our principal characters are also fleshed out nicely both during these sequences and those surrounding them in the early going, just enough information being provided about their pasts in order to explain their views toward religion and make their various “arcs” seem quite believable, the two “true believers” becoming quick devotees of The Messenger’s — errrmmm — message of impending Apocalypse/Rapture, and the atheist “odd man out” feeling even more odd as his friends succumb to the sway of the camp’s insular “hive-mind” thinking.

Giving away any more of the story would probably be saying too much, but there are some aspects that strain credulity, such as Michael’s belief that he’s the so-called “Angel Of Death,” and I guess that’s as good a segue as any into the “taketh away” half of the equation : Johnson’s clearly trying here, but the overall tone of her direction is so flat and dispassionate that it makes it tough for audiences to invest themselves emotionally in what’s happening. This is a common (and in no way always accurate) knock on the “found footage” sub-genre in general, but it’s especially pronounced here and even begins to grate after awhile. The Xs and Os of the story are interesting enough that you want to buy into what Johnson is selling here, but then she does her level best, clearly more by accident than design, to say “thanks for watching, but there’s no need for you to care about this too much.”

The acting’s pretty good on the whole among the principal players, but that only goes so far, and while the single-camera trope makes sense from both a stylistic and budgetary perspective, it stops effectively covering up the absolute amateurism of many of the shots about halfway through and worse, as events spiral out of control in the pivotal “third act,” they end up coming off as more ridiculous than threatening. One of the characters — and I won’t say who, other than it’s not who you’d necessarily expect — even delivers a long, rambling monologue for the camera that’s just plain embarrassing but is meant to come off as ominous in the extreme. Points for trying, I guess, sure — but not much more than that.

And while we’re on the subject of “not much more,” this one isn’t worth much more of my time to write about, or yours to read about. It’s streaming for free on Amazon Prime right now if you feel like checking it out (and is most likely also available on DVD, although I didn’t bother to confirm that), but seriously — for sheer entertainment value, not to mention horror quotient, you’re probably better off reading the Bible. That’s always good for laughs and chills in equal measure, while The Faith Community ends up delivering the former inadvertently, and the latter not at all.

Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. Scott says:

    TL;DR I did not care for this movie. I agree, lots of potential. Not executed well.

    This movie :-\. I mean…as a person who’s personal faith is Christian adjacent, though not easily offended about it, I was anxious to see how this movie would treat a Christian camp trope. Honestly though, It makes me feel like the writer/director was basing the movie off of other warped Christian cult movies and ideas rather than researching how these type of camps and retreats genuinely are.

    I think it would have been cool to have them go into it and it was seemly a normal and pleasant retreat only for the movie slowly show things getting that “wait, something’s not right…” vibe that culminates it act three. I would’ve been on board with that, but as soon as they get to the woods, any normal person would been out of there with a “ZOOM!” written in the air behind them.

    It didn’t really give the audience any time to feel any building dread because we knew that it was bad from the start. It is most noticeable when the protagonists were left alone for several minutes after the Adam and Eve play where the ATHEIST convinces his brother to stay. Why? The cult doesn’t show any weapons nor any actions to show they are trying to keep you there. Plus, its not like there are any oppressive guard like people. The closest is Michael, the army guy, but he never is shown overtly threatening. WHY DON’T YOU JUST LEAVE?????

    Also, The Messenger, bless the actor’s heart, he did not play the character with any charisma. Part of the reason crazy cults exist is because the leader has some sort of draw for the followers to want to stay with him. I feel like the only notes he had from the director was “Do a more obnoxious Kirk Cameron imitation.” Also the stakes felt kind of low given that his “followers” consisted of like 5 people.

    One of the creepiest videos ever is the real life footage of the Jim Jones Cult the night before they committed suicide where they put on such a big show for the congressman visiting acting like all was going great and normal at the compound. I feel like they should have done more to mimic that kind of feel to the movie rather than what we got. I think having more cultists to make it feel like the protagonists couldn’t just easily sneak away would’ve made it more watchable.

    AND, the whole thing with the barrel. Again, stakes would have been greater if there were more cultists to make it seem more hopeless, but for Pete’s sake the guy is being held down by a weak looking doughy fellow and the brother is being detained by two skinny guys holding him back very lightly. FIGHT BACK! I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to believe two able bodied young men couldn’t get out of that situation.

    AND, a nitpick i know, but the cultist shirts had the Methodist Church cross (Cross next to flame). Now, being formally a Methodist, in all honestly the Methodist Church is one of the more progressive churches in Christianity, my church’s pastor was a very hippie woman who encouraged the “Coexist” mentality. I’m sure it’s not true of all Methodist churches, but to pick their cross for the crazy zealot cult seemed weird. Particularly because the only reference to any branch of Christianity was when The Messenger mentioned Baptists. It just made me think not much genuine research went into the movie.

    AND fact that the “creepiness” at the beginning had to be pointed out by the camera man: “Those crosses….they’re kind of creepy..” ….were they? I guess if you say so… I don’t know. Maybe this is nitpicking again.

    AND the last 10-15 minutes with the girl…I mean…the movie has to give Trash Film Guru credit because I was going to shut the movie off early, but I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to comment on the movie if I hadn’t seen it all, but MAN!!! That was when I wished Amazon Prime had a “x1.5” speed increase.

    I feel like, as you said, it had potential, and if it would have had more cultists and build upon a slow introduction of creepiness that would have worked so much better. Like i said, that Jim Jones video of the compound is so creepy because it starts out with everything looking like its a paradise, and then someone secretly hands the congressman a note asking for help escaping and it all goes downhill from there. Granted it may be in poor taste to build a horror movie around that, but I mean, a horror movie inspired by that would have been awesome. This could have been very interesting, but it wasn’t.

  3. Scott says:

    Also, did you see Nigel Bach has a new movie out? I haven’t watched it yet though.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      If you mean “Bad Ben : The Mandela Effect,” then yes, I watched it and reviewed it. If he has a new one out since that, though, then no, I haven’t seen it yet.

  4. Scott says:

    No it’s new than that. “The Crescent Moon Clown”. I hope your sitting down, but it looks like it’s filmed…in his house like all the others! It looks like it’s still follow in the Bad Ben cinematic universe.

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      I’m gonna have to give that a look, I have a love/hate relationship with Bach’s films, but feel strangely compelled to watch all of them —

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