Holy Ghost People
Film Review by Kam Williams
In 1967, Peter Adair shot an eye-opening documentary in the backwoods of West Virginia where he found a Pentecostal congregation conducting services that included such bizarre practices as snake handling and speaking in tongues. That expose, Holy Ghost People, ostensibly now serves as the inspiration for this identically-titled thriller about a daring attempt to rescue a woman ensnared in a dangerous cult on a compound hidden deep in the Appalachian Mountains.
During the haunting flick’s opening tableau, we are introduced to Charlotte (Emma Greenwell), the film’s 19 year-old narrator. We find her working as a bartender at Saints and Sinners, a seedy dive catering to a blue-collar clientele.
At the end of her shift, she takes a hunky ex-Marine home with her. But it’s not what you’re thinking; she scraped the drunk vet off the ground in the wake of a brutal beating by bouncers outside the nightclub.
After Wayne’s (Brendan McCarthy) hangover wears off, she nurses him back to health while simultaneously confiding, “I need some help. My sister’s in trouble, real trouble.”
Charlotte further explains that Liz (Buffy Charlet) has come under the spell of Brother Billy (Joe Egender), the charismatic pastor of the Church of One Accord. She seals the deal by letting him know that she has nowhere to turn for help, since she and her sibling are orphans with no other relatives.
That desperate plea works, and soon the two undertake the scary trek up Sugar Mountain. En route, they pass religious billboards emblazoned with Christian scriptures and sayings like “Jesus Saves” and “Repent or Perish.”
Upon arriving, rather than owning up about their true intentions, they feign being heathens in need of redemption in order to infiltrate the congregation. However, suspicious Brother Billy warns them about the dire fate which awaits anyone who speaks with forked tongue, before pressuring Wayne to play with a deadly serpent as proof of his faith.
Directed by Mitchell Altieri, Holy Ghost People is an edge-of-your-seat thriller which proves to be surprisingly absorbing for a production mounted on a modest budget. Credit a cleverly-concealed script with a few surprising twists that I dare not divulge. The picture also features some great acting by a talented cast which threw itself into the project with praiseworthy abandon.
A faith-based answer to Snakes on a Plane. Snakes in the Pulpit!
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, profanity, brief nudity and drug use
Running time: 92 minutes
Distributor: XLrator Media