Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Stream to Scream: “THE VEIL”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
THE VEIL is quite a curious movie to behold, largely in that the filmmaking in and of itself tells a story within the story of the film. That story, of course, is a film that was originally found footage that- through a variety of means- has been changed to become a straightforward narrative… and yet, can’t quite give up the ghost of its original framing device. It’s a film where so much works from top to bottom and yet there’s something essential that couldn’t quite make the film click, and the rewriting/editing process to find that element feels ever apparent. And yet, because so much of the film works, THE VEIL isn’t quite a film to dismiss as you actively root for the project find greatness all the way up until the credits roll.
One of the reasons THE VEIL is so intriguing is its core concept: what if Jim Jones was right, and his heinous actions were leading people into resurrection? Of course, Jonestown is replaced by “Heaven’s Veil” for this film, with Jones himself being swapped out for the Jones-esque ‘Jim Jacobs,’ played by Thomas Jane in one of his strongest all-time career performances. And around that core concept, THE VEIL grows into something a bit more generic: a survivor of a mass suicide returns to the scene years later with a documentary crew, where the spirits refuse to rest.
From there, THE VEIL struggles with finding its voice, jumping between generic, tired moments sold via frustratingly wedged-in found footage elements and some genuinely strong pieces of unsettling horror. In fact, the best scenes of the film are those in which director Phil Joanou (helmer of the amazing STATE OF GRACE and DIRTY LAUNDRY) is allowed to play with his cast, offering something a bit more theatrical or deciding to go for disturbing rather than jump scares. In that sense, the scenes of ghosts showing up behind people on camera or the narrative stretches to tie the narrative to found footage in the midst of ongoing scenes feel frustrating, almost as if THE VEIL is desperately attempting to become a SINISTER copycat than become something entirely unique.
However, that’s not to say that THE VEIL isn’t scary; in fact, THE VEIL does carry a certain ‘90s-horror penchant to the proceedings that feels surprisingly effective when compared to the current crop of terror titles. THE VEIL pursues the path less taken by allowing the horror to unfold organically, showing the horror outright beat by beat rather than shrouding the paranormal element in mystery. As for the moments of brutality, THE VEIL does attempt to go into PG-13 territory by making most of its violence off-camera, but nevertheless packing a punch when occasionally on display. Even the cult suicide aspect is handled fairly respectfully, played for chills rather than for shocks, which certainly saves the film from comparison to THE SACRAMENT.
THE VEIL also benefits from having a strong cast by its side, anchored by the aforementioned Thomas Jane in a fervent, charismatic role that he inhabits with gusto. Alongside Jane is a fantastic Lily Rabe, who pulls off both terrified and terrifying quite brilliantly, while Jessica Alba does fairly well in an unfortunately underwritten role that is sacked with the all-too-familiar found footage protagonist dialogue (“We can’t leave now! We’re so close!”). The film also sports solid performances from Reid Scott, Shannon Woodward, Jack De Sena, Aleksa Palladino, Meegan Warner, Lenny Jacobson and David Sullivan.
Overall, even if it doesn’t fully connect, THE VEIL is an ultimately fascinating horror effort that is worth a watch. With a genuinely unsettling performance from Thomas Jane, THE VEIL shows Joanou’s seasoned filmmaking mentality on display to craft a fair share of effective macabre moments, even if it’s between tired found footage material and some clunkier patchwork editing. Nevertheless, worse films have been made with more complete visions, so even if just to see the great cast at work and the eerie atmospheric dread done right.
THE VEIL is streaming on Netflix Instant.