Holy Ghost People (2013) [REVIEW] [SXSW]

holy ghost people poster sxsw

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS, AM I RIGHT?! I hate fucking genre labels. Is this a dramatic horror movie? Is it a drama with horrific elements? WHO FUCKING KNOWS. I don’t, but I knew there was some snake handling in the movie so I figured I’d check it out. You might remember that I enjoyed similar movies that have to do with cults and religion like Sound of My Voice or Martha Marcy May Marlene, so I was intrigued by the story of a girl trying to find her sister at a remote commune up on a hill. Ugh, whatever, I’m not getting any sleep. All I did was see a fucking picture of the movie and it’s called “Holy Ghost People” so obviously I went to see it because I thought there’d be ghosts! Maybe there’d be people! MAYBE BOTH! WHAT THE FUCK! I tried writing this review without spoilers, and then realized that the summary was only 3 sentences, so as a warning, yes, there will be spoilers. Yeah, I’m a selfish jerk who’s more worried about a word count than I am about the secrets the filmmakers are trying to keep! Why would they keep secrets anyway? Secrets are for jerks.

holy ghost people movie brendan mccarthy

Ummm, I don’t know, Satan probably. You should fear Satan.

Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) is trying to track down her sister that she hasn’t seen since she had kicked her out of the house for using drugs. Not wanting her last interaction with her sister to be such a negative one, Charlotte enlists Wayne (Brendan McCarthy), an alcoholic that she met at the bar where she works, to track her down. The only information she really has is that she went up “Sugar Mountain”, also known as a commune where a bunch of crazy religious people live. Granted, they don’t seem crazy BECAUSE they are religious, they just seem crazy in addition to being religious. Anyways, Charlotte and Wayne get the sense that maybe there’s something up with lead pastor Billy (Joe Egender) when he claims to have never even heard of Charlotte’s sister, despite having a photo of her in his bedroom.  When he’s confronted, he says that he just didn’t know her by the name that Charlotte had asked about, and when Billy offers assistance to Wayne in dealing with his alcoholism, it starts to look like maybe things aren’t so bad after all. Unfortunately, things start getting a little more intense when Billy learns that Wayne and Charlotte were lying to him about a bunch of things, and when Wayne is handed a rattlesnake, it bites him with its venom fangs. GROSS. He is put in a cabin to let the lord heal his necrotic tissue, but Sister Sheila (Cameron Richardson) sympathizes with him and gives him the medicine he needs. This is going on while Billy is forcing Charlotte to marry him, claiming that’s the only way to figure out what happened to her sister. Well, along with getting whipped by a belt. Anyways, once Billy and Charlotte are married, she pulls a gun on him and forces him to take her to her sister, only to be brought to an empty field where she is surrounded by people from the commune who then tie her up and throw rocks at her. Wayne intervenes, feeling better from the snakebite, shoots a few people, and when he catches up to Billy, Billy elects to walk into the river to drowned to avoid being apprehended. And then…well, I guess that’s it. Everything kind of just worked out, didn’t it?

 

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Pretty sure that this picture is funny enough to speak for itself.

I still just don’t know how I feel about this movie, sadly. What was good about it? Well, I’ll tell you, just give me a second. The three leads all did a great, but Joe Egender is clearly the standout performance. Wait, maybe it’s actually Brendan McCarthy? I don’t know, I really enjoyed both of them. Seeing Wayne transforming from a paranoid, cynical alcoholic to falling for Billy’s charm and charisma was something I didn’t really see coming, and something I enjoyed watching. I can’t remember specifically which southern state this takes place in, but I thought the setting and the locations were different from most films we see take place in the south. It’s either cities full of racist idiots or it’s backwoods hillbillies who are also racist and dumb. This movie probably only had about 30 people in it, and none of them seemed to be unintelligent. Sure, maybe they fell in with the wrong crowd, but nobody seemed dumb or brainwashed or anything like we see happen in other similar movies. The film really utilized the beauty of all the mountains and rivers and trees that can be found in the south, so everything really looked great. I mentioned some other cult related movies at the beginning of this post, so I think one of the issues I had with this movie was that it seemed to be based on actual religious practices as opposed to coming up with their own religion or beliefs which I felt could have been a lot more interesting. I also understand that the filmmakers probably saved some exposition time by not having to set the rules and ideas of the beliefs of everyone on the commune so I don’t really blame them for that. The reveal of the things that were happening also ended up being underwhelming, especially since the most important question of where the sister was ended up being explained by just a difference in someone’s name. I think I wanted to like this movie more than I did because of the cinematography and performances but ultimately the story itself ended up falling a little too flat for me to thoroughly enjoy.

 

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4 responses to “Holy Ghost People (2013) [REVIEW] [SXSW]

  1. This is actually based on the 1967 documentary of the same name by Peter Adair that was about the practices of a West Virginia Pentecostal church. It’s in the public domain so you can check it out @ the internet archive. I enjoyed it quite a bit, so I’ve been keeping an eye on this movie & am looking forward to checking it out. I’m surprised that you wouldn’t find ‘actual’ religious practices far more interesting than fictional ones. I fear you are slightly touched. (In your brain matter)

    • Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Definitely adds another level to the whole movie. I guess that because I’ve never really gotten the vibe from any religious person I’ve ever met that they could be capable of doing the things portrayed in this movie, I would have been much more affected had it been a religion/belief system I had never heard of. Does that make sense? It probably doesn’t, so I should just go watch the documentary.

  2. I have seen this movie,and it is great.But I was personally in that movie walking down the street a hundred times and cut my part out.

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