I’ve long admired the film works of director Phil Joanou. His grasp on storytelling, both visually and from a narrative standpoint, is so strong that middling vehicles like The Veil are elevated because of his touch. This low-budget film comes from Universal and producer Jason Blum, their tested formula is again at play, but Joanou makes the picture his own, adding a drab color platte, interesting actors and producing a number of ‘jump’ moments.
Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane) (a thinly veiled reference to Jim Jones) runs a compound called the Heaven’s Veil. Located on a ranch in the woods of California, Jacobs’ followers live on the compound along with their children and have given themselves to the wishes and whims of their charismatic leader. Even to the point of committing mass suicide when the FBI raids the compound. The sole survivor is a 5yr. old little girl with blond hair, the media christens her Sara Hope.
Now, 30 years later, a documentary crew, led by Maggie (Jessica Alba) have convinced Sara (Shannon Woodward) to revisit the site where the tragedy happened. Three decades later and still, the compound holds secrets and dangers for every one of the unwanted visitors. Family connections arise and the relationship between crew and subject gets tangled.
I’m not sure there is a message, theme or point to the underlying story in The Veil, but I still enjoyed the movie. It’s an exercise in cinematic moderation, using provocative angles, strange interior dress, and a greenish-black hue to every frame. The Veil doesn’t rank with Phil Joanou’s great works (Entropy, Heaven’s Prisoner, State of Grace), but it shows a master craftsman fully in command of his trade, even if the project may not be worthy of his talent.
Director: Phil Joanou
Stars: Jessica Alba, Shannon Woodward, Thomas Jane