In this psychological thriller, nineteen-year old Charlotte enlists the help of alcoholic ex-Marine Wayne to find her estranged sister who has gone missing deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Their search leads them to the Church of One Accord and an enigmatic snake-handling preacher named Brother Billy, who’s devoted congregation of outcasts knowingly risk injury or death seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost.
Genre : Thriller/Drama
Country : USA
Emma Greenwell : Charlotte
Joe Egender : Billy
Brendan McCarthy : Wayne
Director : Mitchell Altieri
“Bless your name, holy Jesus.
Satan’s sheddin’ big ol’ tears tonight.
He’s a big boy, ain’t he? I call him Satan, ’cause he’s so big and mean.
It’s these deadly serpents the Lord sent us to handle… without fear.
Our hearts are filled with the Holy Ghost.
Get on up here, Brother Cole. Satan wants to talk to you.”
“Holy Ghost People” isn’t really a horror, even if the movie poster looks like it and it’s a pretty macabre theme. It’s more a thriller in which the creepy part is manifested through the religious sphere. Or you get the shivers already by looking at some poisonous rattlesnakes.
What makes this movie eerie is the fact that it’s indeed still possible that an individual who’s charismatic and has the talent to preach in a convincing way, can manipulate a bunch of people so that they follow him blindly and firmly believe in what this indoctrinating figure proclaims. A person with a seemingly clear mind who tries to convince others that he’s talking the truth (however it’s usually a twisted truth). Regardless if what he’s preaching is based on Biblical or other religious texts or that this is simply improvised and full of hollow words. And he usually speaks to people who have physically and emotionally difficulties, or are recovering from a particular setback, and actually are in need and looking for a glimmer of hope and a last resort to hold on to. History has already shown the effect of such figures and what they can cause. And without going into a religious debacle here, I’m convinced that most of the global problems are rooted in the religious aspect of human life. And that’s something that scares a lot of people already. Enough said!
Ultimately, this wasn’t bad movie in the beginning. The gloomy atmosphere was constantly present and even at times it was pretty exciting. The images mounted in between from the eponymous documentary made by Peter Adair in 1967, made sure that the lurid and creepy atmosphere was maintained. The performances are the strongest part of this movie. It’s the denouement that’s the weak point. Especially Joe Egender I thought was fantastic and did some strong acting. He really came across as an evil and manipulative person with his loud-sounding voice and the way he spoke to his followers in a hypnotic way. A true wolf in sheep’s clothing. Satan in person. Brendan McCarthy and Emma Greenwell were very convincing as the by chance created couple. McCarthy, ravaged by alcohol and who actually preferred to drive back. He’s a character who cares about nothing. Greenwell tries to unravel the puzzle on her own. They truly did their best in a convincing way.
But then the movie turns into a complete mess and ends in a disappointing way. The entire buildup is fabulous and is negated by the uninspired denouement. Why couldn’t they just simply ask about the presence of Liz? Despite their aversion and indifference about that religious stuff, they still let themselves immerse. It also seemed strange to me that they could feel from the outset that there was a certain danger when staying in this closed community.
In a certain way this was a scary and creepy movie about the deterrent of fanatical sects. A succession of extreme religious brainwashing where self-punishment is a method of self-purification. A crazy ritual encouraged by a dogmatic person. There are several films about such cults (and this one is definitely better than “Red State“). And because it is strange and incomprehensible for “normal” people this can lead to confusion and even fright, as the unknown frightens. So don’t expect gory scenes and ghastly moments. For genre fans, it’s a film that’s worth watching.
In doing research for my course on the Hatfield McCoy Feud, came across references to the various mountain religious sects in the Appalachian Region. Result was the only state where handling snakes as part of a religious service is legal, is West Virginia. A reminder, you don’t want to travel where you’re not wanted, especially alone!