The Veil full movie review - A promising premise that, ultimately, fails to deliver.
25 years (not 30 as the synopsis claims) after the mass suicide of a quasi-religious cult led by the charismatic Jim Jacobs, the sole survivor, Sarah (Lily Rabe) reluctantly a
grees to revisit the remote house/church where the tragic events unfolded, accompanied by a documentary film crew led by Maggie (Jessica Alba).
It soon transpires that Alba's character has a personal agenda for making the film - her father was the FBI man who led a raid on the cult's HQ and, for reasons I won't go into, subsequently committed suicide. Her desire to get to the bottom of what drove her father to kill himself is mirrored by Sarah's need to understand why she alone survived the mass suicide. Throw in some decent, naturalistic acting and we're off to a good start. Sadly, this is where things start to go south.
On their first night at the house, one of the crew is so terrified by something he's seen that he takes off in their van and is discovered dead behind the wheel having apparently driven at speed into a tree. Rather than pack up there and then, Maggie insists on seeing the project through to its conclusion and, at this point, we descend into standard, seen-it-all-before horror.
Despite the fact that they have set up camp at what is effectively a major crime scene there are several film reels lying around that steadily reveal what Jacobs (Thomas Jane) and his acolytes were up to in the weeks leading up to their deaths. Why they were never removed as evidence is left unexplained as it would get in the way of the story. As the remaining crew go through the tapes one-by-one we discover that Jacobs was a foaming at the mouth, Waco-level wacko who was inducing his own death and subsequently being brought back to life after penetrating the three 'veils' of some higher consciousness, apparently represented by the three nails that held Jesus to the cross.
As each of the tapes is viewed Maggie's crew is picked off one-by-one until only Maggie and Sarah are left. At this point we realise that Sarah isn't quite what she first appeared and has lured Maggie and her crew to the house so that the spirits of Jacobs and his acolytes could take their revenge on Maggie for her father's sins and also give them a new 'host' body allowing them to return to earth in human form and execute their plan of building an army of immortals to take over the world. So much for the plot.
Technically, the film is well-enough executed with the mood and atmosphere creepy enough to keep you on edge as you await each shock moment. The acting is solid with the exception of Thomas Jane who, by the end of it, comes across like Billy Graham on crystal meth. He's a better actor than this and any blame for his caricature of a performance should be aimed at the director rather than Jane himself. The stand-out performer, in my opinion, was Lily Rabe who, as she did in American Horror Story, effortlessly moves from vulnerable to outright creepy with equal believability. Strangely enough, Jessica Alba - the lead - turns in such a low-key performance that she seemed to get lost in the proceedings for long periods of time. So much so that it was easy to forget that this was supposed to be Maggie's story.
In an overcrowded genre, it's difficult to bring anything new to the table. When I read the premise I had high hopes for The Veil but it's rapid descent into the formulaic was disappointing. That said, it had its moments and would by no means be the worst horror film I've ever seen.