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The Veil (2016)

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Nightmare on Nail Street

A grim answer to the question “What the heck happened to Jessica Alba?”, The Veil starts with a blasphemous mass and ends with a crucifixion. Heavily relying on the Jim Jones’ mass suicide with just a dash of the Manson family, it mixes classic cinematography with post-modern seasoning, found footage (please Lord, make it STOP!) and an unreliable narrator. Mix the whole in a Cabin in the Woods environment (after carefully expunging all said movie’s clever bits and voilà, here’s your bad movie of the week. You watch what is filmed of the characters; you watch what the characters film; you also watch a lot of the characters watching the movie they found. Call it meta if you wish. One calls it crap.

Sarah Hope, natch (Lili Rabe, of American Horror Story‘s fame, here given absolutely nothing to do) is the sole survivor of Heaven’s Veil, a cult led by Jim Jacobs (Tomas Jane, hamming it up as if the world was really about to end). Maggie Price, natch (Jessica Alba) wants to shoot a documentary on the massacre, because her father, an FBI agent, committed suicide after such an horror happened on his watch. She has a crew, which bears no importance whatsoever since they will all die anyway. OK. Let’s share a moment of non-nonsense approach now, shall we?

So: jump scares (at least 6), rocking chair, moth, whispering ghosts, scary doll, spiritualism seance, demonic mumbo-jumbo, torch lights running out of battery, no cellphone coverage. All checked. Everything that could possibly go wrong does so from the start, but the characters are real troopers, so they carry on. Also, they are dumb as doorknobs. Wait a minute, no cymbal-crashing monkey?

For some reason, there is ONE videotape, labeled “Experiment 23”, and it’s grainy as hell, but all the rest is shot in glorious Super 8 Cinemascope, immaculately edited, of course. What Experiment 23 shows makes no sense whatsoever to what will follow, but they all get hooked on it like a 20$ hoe on her first crack pipe. “We need to watch the rest of these films”, someone says. NOOOOOO! RUUUUUUN!

Not to spoil much, but Jim Jacobs aims at retrieving the three nails of the Cross to acquire eternal life, a project absolutely as legit as ruling the world via the creation of a social network or creating new California property development land through an earthquake. Jesus was nailed to the Cross, so the spirit is nailed to the body, you know. Of course you do.

Embarassed by so many references it would be pedantic and tedious to list them, movie pedestrianly proceeds to its bitter end. FBI has ESP. Sarah is not what she seems to be. Jessica Alba gets immortal the hard way. Now let’s all have a quizz: why is that thing called The Veil? Oh, rutabaga.

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Starry Eyes (2014)

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Better The Devil, You Know…

Sarah (Alexandra Essor, fearless), an aspiring actress, pays her bill by working at Big Tatters, a family restaurant with boobs where the waitresses wear potato-skin-inspired very tight pants. She shares a house with a bunch of bros and hoes, endlessly discussing the movie they will never shoot. For some obfuscating reason, the scene is in Los Angeles.

Sarah gets an audition for “The Silver Scream”, produced by Astreus Pictures, a once prominent company now on an eclipse but planning their big return to the horror genre. It does not go well and she throws a fit in the bathroom, banging her bag on the wall (with her cellphone in it, one presumes), screaming and pulling off her hair, a rather mild reaction after such a disappointment. Her rage attracts the attention of the casting director who’s not played by a terrible actor and she’s asked to replay her fit, only with epileptic shaking.

By the time a disheveled Sarah walks the streets while synth music plays, two things have become obvious: the movie will follow the same Halloween-inspired horror nouveau template than features like The House of the Devil or Girl Walks Alone at Night, and it will neither be great or awful. But it has a certain something in the slow burn vein.

At her second audition Sarah is asked to disrobe completely, which she does reluctantly at first, until she experiences some kind of an epiphany possibly induced by the flashing strobe lights. Are they trying to give her a seizure? The casting matron sports a pentacle pendant, so one knows that some cult is behind Astreus. Ominous name, check.

Three being the charm it is, she’s invited to met the producer, a libidinous creep who tells her in a conspiratorial tone things like “Ambition is the blackest of human desires” and “I want to capture the ugliness of the human spirit” before feeling her up. Being the epileptic goody-two-shoes she is, Sarah backs off and storms out. Her one female roomate who’s not passive-agressive is appalled: “You don’t mean sex!” she scoffs as if the casting couch was an alien notion in LA.

Sarah takes the walk of shame, begs for her job back at Big Tatters and threatens to spiral into depression. She musters the courage, or is desperate enough, to beg Astreus for a second chance. At this point, one would be allowed to think of her as a tad irresolute.

She goes to her meeting with the head of Astreus dressed as a hooker, because life is for doers, not quitters, and she also gets to meet his other head. “Show me the real Sarah”, he says, to which she doesn’t respond since her mouth is full. The producer has a pentacle tattoo and a very vulgar diamond watch. A masked silhouette observes Sarah, well, performing.

Morning after is a b****. She feels nauseous, gets fired, flashes her roommates and loses her hair while wandering the streets on obsessive dialogue loops. Visions of herself dolled up like a drag queen alternate with losing tooth and nails in he fashion made popular by The Fly. At the point her vagina bleeds and she throws up worms, one wonders what it was she actually swallowed the night before. Astreus explains her that she has to die for a new star to be born.

But not before killing her roommates, in a slasher segment which provides a welcome rush to the movie pace. The worst of the lot has the best death scene, Torn Curtain-style, before it is time for Sarah to lay down and die.

In a finale which does not make any dreadful mistake (ultimate jump scare, loose ends, call for a sequel, to name but a few), Sarah is born again as Annie Lennox, complete with Savage wig and make-up moves from the Why video. Part character study, part body horror, part slasher, part satanism, Starry Eyes does not really coalesces into a coherent whole. The idea that to become part of the Hollywood elite you have to suck c***, lose your teeth and vomit maggots seems eerily adequate, though.

IMDB page

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