The film uses the tiresome line “based on true events” something that gets used so often, it’s the equivalent of a car alarm going off it becomes ignored by the masses. It is implied to create fear and tension, however not always necessary if you use a group of cult members, they already have a built mechanism to cause fright among viewers, because most recall headlines of real cult doing very unusually activities. However director Kevin Greutert (Jessabelle [2014]) deploys enough horror and measured gore to satisfy the core of fans yet makes sure that emotional side equals the correct amount to tension, this comes from Jared Rivet’s script, Shout Factory served as distributors for this sicko flick. Rivet loosely inspired his screenplay about the events surrounding the early 80s called Satanic Panic, no relation to the film of the same name, but from the standpoint of deprogrammer of cult members.

The flick starts with the creepiest form possible of home invasion films, the thought of a stranger entering our safe environment especially at night, or worst if one is in a shower, talk about being vulnerable, in any regard these movies generate all sorts of issues with the audience. There have been movies that pride themselves on this avenue namely Keep Watching (2017) and Fender Bender (2016), although this time around the intruders wore animal masks nothing quite new with the concept, that dates back to The Crimson Cult (1963) always used to conjure a connect between man and beast. Human monsters are always more dangerous and bizarre than the ghosts, goblins and unreal monsters.

It’s always appealing when a filmmaker harkens back to older classic movies and uses them as a homage such done with the opening scene from Manhunter (1986). An unknown assailant makes their way as a point of view staking in a tension filled 5-minute solid nonstop scene. The intruder likely making their way to the master bedroom with always unlocked doors, before violently killing the husband and wife, then turning his attention to the other bedroom where the bloodcurdling screaming of the parents awoken a frantic teenage girl coming to terms with madness, before fading to black. A powerful and chilling open for any movie, it captures the audience attention. If one can omit from memory a few plot holes, more on that later; the next sequence picks up when a cult deprogrammer Jimmy Levine (Stephen Dorff (The Gate [1987])) kidnaps Justin (Ben Suvillan (Dark Light [2019])) a now grown man under his client the Powells’ orders from animal mask wearing cult who Christian Justin with the birthright name of  ‘Thanatos’. The drugged Justin, highly distrusting of his captors and former family, wonder why, he refuses to speak except in animalistic sounds. The location the family cabin in the middle of the woods, not the smartest place, horror fans known all about cabins in woods, but alas the Powell family gathered brother Campbell (Nick Roux); girlfriend Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts (Lost Time [2014])) clutching the infant Zoe and parents Andrew and Kathy Powell (Jonathn Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger, respectively). Dorff shows his acting talents when speaking in a tempered tone to the women and at the same time an intense measured deliver to the men.  The cult finds them, and the end of the second and into the third act are extremely sinister fun, the family lambs shouldn’t play in wolves’ yard. Jimmy, portraying a former US Marine makes the worst mistake one can in horror movie, proceeding after a target in the darkness alone, while seeming unaware of the murderous history of this cult. Not Smart! The psychological impact of the cult is well-positioned and filmed, the group in flanking the lighting of the scene outside nicely done, the shadows working to mask their numbers aids the filmmaker in designing the ominous scene. For moment it feels a little like You’re Next (2011) as their intentions appear clear and precise however their overall plan well hidden.

The screenplay has a few holes as previously mentioned namely how does this cult relate back to the creepy opening, Justin’s involvement occurred how and Jimmy finding him on a lonely stretch on the road, with car trouble it’s just hurried along, a little background goes a long on story arc, as it stands it feels more of set pieces. Then the character Justin, sadly Ben doesn’t have much to work with, random taunts and animal howls, cries and screeches, otherwise it’s just empty screen time with psychotic looks from him – whoopee. Why not have a more probing questions, enter his world to destroy with questions, but that is all in hindsight. Cultist theme movies that incorporate home invasions quite a normal theme, thanks in partake to the sick real-life Sharon Tate murders/ massacre, such as with the movie Wolves at the Door (2015) and with animal masks it’s becoming more of a common theme, yet the violence must be terrorizing not merely psychic but rather emotional (it varies too greatly) and extremely disturbing which it doe achieve, hence a mixed bag.

This movie reminds one of bobcats in a bag fighting for dominance, delivering a slick performance, especially some of the kills, all while leaving the door open form a sequel, if that happens perhaps one learns of the backstory of them otherwise it’s a fine story to entertain. As for those interest in gore there’s some but clearly watchable though highly suggestable, just make sure your doors are locked.

TAGLINES:

  • Sacrifices must be made.
  • Family First
  • Every family buries secrets. But some secrets won’t stay buried.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6104206/

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IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10