It’s safe to say that I have loved horror since discovering the delights of the Universal monster movies when I was but a mere slip of a boy, with one major consequence being that I have learnt a few essential rules for getting through real life in one piece. One major rule I swear by is thus; Whenever my friends (yes I do have some) or family (they may deny being so) ever decide to travel anywhere I make it abundantly clear that no-one – and I mean NO-ONE – will ever bring along a video camera to “record everything that takes place from the moment we depart for their personal records”. They can record the odd pretty landscape we chance upon, the occasional ‘hilarious prank’ that one of the group may play upon another (usually on me – bastards) or even amusing anecdote during a meal (never by me) – but that is the absolute limit.
The simple fact is that anytime in any movie when some Einstein has decided to film every conversation and every damn event it invariably means that two things invariably happen; 1) The group is essentially picked off one by one by some unseen vicious malevolent force until they are all very, very, dead; 2) The reason we know that the plucky (or reckless) group in question have been butchered to smithereens is because the video footage has somehow been found, put back together and the replayed for public enjoyment. So no sir, not for me – yes you can get your camera out….but make sure you put it away pretty damn pronto.
You may have gathered from my initial ramblings that the ‘found footage’ sub-genre may not be my personal cup of tea – and you may be right. To be honest, the reasons for my less than enthusiastic feelings are not based upon any cinematic philosophy, the reason is quite simply that I find the shuddering ‘real life feel’ camerawork that is synonymous with the style of film physically nauseating. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to watch a found footage film only to switch of off part-way through because I find the style completely unwatchable from a physical point of view, no matter how stylistically clever the work may be. I know what you’re thinking, having something of an aversion to the genre may not exactly help in giving some, ahem, legendary 5D musings on a recent film I was sent to watch. Well, perhaps my stoic, ‘cough’ professionalism will actually shine through (for once)……we shall see.
The film in question is The Faith Community (2017) and the plot is thus………
“A group of religious students drive into the remote wilderness to spend time with a religious sect and strengthen their bond with God. The three unsuspecting students film everything to document their experience, but soon find themselves in the dark underbelly of a twisted religious cult with questionable motives. This found footage film and horror movie will test even the most devout faith.”
From the outset, The Faith Community (2017) thankfully manages for the most part to avoid the intense dizziness inducing style. This is helped in part by employing a number of interviews with various characters from the cult which essentially means a good deal of time is spent with some distinctly stationary scenes, scenes which incidentally are integral in shaping our understanding of the motivations of this religious group. At its core the story is purposefully simple as it explores both the reactions of the students who find a place very different from what they had been led to believe existed and also the cult itself, which we quickly learn is certainly destined for Jonestown-esque connotations. So for such a simple concept and style the success of a film like this falls squarely on the shoulders of the actors, something that can occasionally be a problem for low-budget independent productions.
However The Faith Community (2017) does not suffer from any such problems, on the contrary, for the most part the performances on show here are remarkable. Jeremy Harris who plays the leader of the cult, The Messenger, quite obviously is having the acting time of his life as he pontificates, sermonises and extols the wrath of god with an energy and fervour that is incredible to see as he waltzes his way through pages of dialogue. This part could have quite easily wandered into the realm of caricature and cliché, but Harris, with his sly grin and twinkle in his eye avoids such pitfalls. The second stand-out performance comes from Vanessa Floyd who plays one of the unsuspecting students, Hannah – her journey from eagerly inquisitive, via confused scepticism to her final destination at the town of raving-mad-batshit-crazy religious fanatic is a delight to watch. If you add to all that Oliver Palmer as the obviously unhinged PTSD veteran, Michael who does his best to initially warn the students that staying with the community might not exactly be best for both their spiritual and physical health, you have an ensemble cast of some skill.
The only minor issue I would have with the film would be the final 3rd act, which while containing something of an emotional punch doesn’t quite deal the knockout blow that it could have done, particularly in the all important confrontation scene where The Messenger well and truly imparts his message of absolution (with conditions) to the gathering throng. While it does avoid being a disappointing climax the ending nevertheless could have benefited from a little more gravitas. However, this is but a minor quibble with a film that kept my attention throughout.
The Faith Community (2017) is an extremely well put together slice of intelligent horror, fine acting and not without the odd helping of humour. It may not have single-handedly changed my mind about the found footage genre it’s certainly an enjoyable piece of work that should be experienced, no matter what ones hang-ups about the genre are.
The website for The Faith Community can be found at http://www.thefaithcommunity-movie.com
The Facebook page for The Faith Community can be found RIGHT HERE.
You can find out more about writer/producer Robert A. Trezza at his IMDB page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2714953/