Drained of colour and suffused with a moody score, Phil Joanou’s The Veil doesn’t have the gumption to live up to the punch of its premise. This 2016 horror picture is written by Robert Ben Garant and was planned as a found footage feature. Changes were made and Joanou’s finished project reflects a certain inconclusiveness.
The general thrust of The Veil suggests a world in which the views of a fanatical cult leader have some semblance of veracity. Unfortunately, Joanou’s approach is so frustratingly dull that it hardly matters. The controversial suggestions wielded by a Jim Jones-type figure are muted by an essential lack of style.
The movie begins by explaining Heaven’s Veil, a cult that committed mass suicide in the 1980s. The captivating leader Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane) was of the belief that he could bring people back to life, thus freeing the spirits of his followers from their corporeal shells. 25 years later, the lone survivor Sarah (Lily Rabe) is still coming to terms with the past.
She is contacted by documentarian Maggie (Jessica Alba), who takes a crew to the site of the incident. Sarah goes along, but the memories are overwhelming. Strange occurrences commence. All the while, they watch lost footage of Jacobs and his followers as they pursue immortality.
The most effective element of The Veil is the cult itself and Jane does well as their leader. He exudes warped magnetism and plays things over-the-top in all the right places, lending the movie a spirit it greatly requires. The beliefs of his character are typical for this sort of genre fare, but Jane makes something out of cracking the code.
His character is assured of his correctness and the movie takes an interesting path with the information, allowing him opportunity rather than insanity. A lot hinges on whether or not Jacobs is right, on whether or not his druggy experimenting bears literal fruit.
Regrettably, the rest of the cast lacks inspiration. Alba sleepwalks and her character suffers from a lack of depth. There is an element that suggests Maggie takes the case of Jim Jacobs very personally, but the actress struggles to connect it to any larger meaning.
Even the unearthing of the footage dulls the blade, as Joanou can’t quite figure out how to effectively deliver chills. While the material could’ve provided a beneficial picture of life inside the death cult, the insipid cinematography by Steeven Petitteville leaves a lot to be desired.
The aforementioned draining of colour furthers the blandness, as The Veil lacks life. The pastiness wounds the picture, blunts the emotional impact and subverts any psychological value by disintegrating the tale into a pile of trite ghost crap. The addition of desperate jump scares and slasher-type killings stinks of formula.
The Veil is the sort of film that aggressively turns away from more interesting material in favour of the prosaic. Just when things seem to generate interest, Joanou strolls off into the woods for a stale death scene or relies on a plumy ghost to spook a half-asleep documentarian.
In effect, The Veil seems like the sort of picture that would have functioned better as a short. There is some substance, but the presentation is so deficient that the fire fizzles out after just a few minutes. And when Jessica Alba can’t breathe life into the party, no amount of juice will do.