Holy Ghost People

Year: 2014
Production Co: Found and Lost Productions
Director: Mitchell Altieri
Producer: Mitchell Altieri
Writer: Mitchell Altieri
Cast: Emma Greenwell, Brendan McCarthy, Joe Egender

Here's all the proof you ever need that sometimes, movie marketing is all about timing. The turn of events in America this week is so creepy one wonders if distributor XLRator media didn't pray for it as 42-year-old snake-handling Kentucky minister Jamioe Coots was bitten during a service, refused treatment and died later the same day.

Holy Ghost People is about lost soul Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) who infiltrates a mysterious religious community far up on a forested mountain trail to search for her missing sister, convincing tough guy Iraq veteran Wayne (Brendan McCarthy) to accompany her.

Once there, they're introduced to the expected kookery of the right wing zealots who live there, including the charismatic minister Brother Billy (Joe Egender) and his propensity to (as the Bible puts it) 'take up serpents'. There's undoubtedly a God to writer/director Mitchell Altieri right now...

Holy Ghost People has an effectively cloying mood, albeit not a very original one. From the moment Charlotte and Wayne set foot behind the gate you're expecting the clean cut, softly spoken and welcoming weirdos to bare sharp teeth or something similarly nasty.

Egender as minister Billy is the stand-out, a smart man in a community of blindly faithful redneck followers who's sure the interlopers have an agenda and sets about using his sinister charm to wheedle it out.

Unfortunately not much else about Holy Ghost People stands out. The characters of Charlotte and Wayne have the curious quality of being cliched and ringing false at the same time. Little of what they do – from Wayne accompanying a girl he doesn't even know to live in a church community to search for her sister to the subterfuge they carry on in their mission – feels like it has the right motivation or makes sense, and the turning points in the plot feel like devices Altieri knew had to be there but couldn't make work any other way.

There's also an oft-trod motif of their hosts getting under their skin more than they bargained for, but again it's not very original or well drawn, and it seems to all happen a bit too conveniently. Holy Ghost People is good looking and earnest, but it needs a stronger narrative and better characters.

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