Starring Jessica Alba, Lily Rabe, Thomas Jane, Shannon Woodward
Directed by Phil Joanou
The Veil is one of those “frankenmovies” that’s really difficult to review because it’s a mix of good and bad. It relies heavily on clichés, boo-scares, and CGI. But it’s also well-acted, intriguing, and creepy.
The story picks up thirty years after members of a religious cult committed mass suicide, when the lone survivor, Sarah Hope (Rabe), returns to the scene of the tragedy with a film crew led by relentless reporter and documentarian Maggie Price (Alba). Both of the women are mesmerized, for different reasons, by the cult’s charismatic guru, Jim Jacobs (Jane), even though he’s been dead for three decades… or has he?
Hope was only five years old when her parents, her siblings, and everyone she knew and loved “drank the Kool-Aid” – or in this case, sugar cubes spiked with poison. Luckily the FBI burst onto the scene, guns blazing, and in the melee Sarah survived. But she grew up troubled and scarred by what she saw.
When Maggie tracks her down and convinces her to go to the rundown old ranch where everyone died, Sarah reluctantly sees it as an opportunity for catharsis. But of course it turns out to be a bad idea because: ghosts.
In many ways the screenplay is both the culprit and the hero of The Veil. The characters are interesting and they’ve all got great dialogue, but other parts of the story are so heavy-handed (naming the cult leader “Jim Jacobs” – really?!) and stereotypical (there a séance, possession, and folks willingly going off into the dark alone even after scary stuff has happened). The jump scares are routine, and the computer-enhanced apparitions are more laughable than scary. But when the filmmakers trust in their cast and the organic atmosphere of fear, The Veil is convincing. Casting Jane as Jacobs is a stroke of brilliance: He’s on fire as the evangelistic spiritual spearhead, spouting his religious rhetoric with just the right mix of crazy and compelling.
The Veil could have been a truly scary supernatural thriller about the power of a collective consciousness, but instead it’s just a halfway decent time waster that’s mostly memorable for Jane’s performance.