The Blessed Ones is a relatively new cult based horror film. Cults have an inherent level of pathos in our society, so the stakes are already established. The horrors of Jonestown still resonate today, and mass hysteria and religious violence are current issues. I have heard some of my friends say they are tired of seeing cults in horror, I am not tired of it, but I want it to be done well.
This film starts out with a discordant soundtrack over images of mass suicides and other cultish images. The timeline of the film is disrupted, and this is made clear immediately. We watch the end of the cult after a mass suicide, and the film starts with a sole survivor who is caught by police and tries to explain what exactly happened.
The film is a bit of a mixed bag from the get-go. I have had a bad string of simply terrible films lately, and this is not one of them. The film has deep flaws, but the story is at least coherent (something that seems to be fairly rare over the last couple of months). Director Patrick O’Bell shows some promise through the technical aspects of the film.
The directing works for the most part. The scenes are shot well, but there are too many little tricks throughout the movie. Sometimes the more dream-like shots work, sometimes they don’t, which is in many ways an encapsulation of the film as a whole. The jarred timeline makes sense sometimes, but at other points the information doesn’t seem to come in the most logical order. Further, we have mixed segments of suspense, horror, interview, and documentary that don’t always come together nicely. At best, it gives a complete view of the cult, at worst (and more frequently), it reminds you that you are watching a movie every few minutes.
Where the film suffers the most is the characters/acting. Our cult leader Elyon (Dave Vescio) isn’t fully convincing as a religious leader. Now, to perhaps be contradictory—I liked Vescio’s more understated cult leader style, but his lack of passion in the speeches makes it all seem a little unbelievable.
Our protagonist Spencer (Andy Gates) is more problematic. We are viewing the cult through his experience, and the deadpan and indifferent acting from Gates jarred me at every point. When speaking with the detective he seemed indifferent. I think they were going for his character being in shock, but it simply doesn’t work. We get more from his psychotic hallucinations than we do his acting or dialogue. The friction between character and situation lingers the whole movie.
Another major issue with the film is that it is simply boring. The story more or less plods along. Sure, there are some twists sprinkled throughout, but not enough to maintain interest. Though we do have a major twist that is reminiscent of another famous film (you might see the connection when you watch this one), but it wasn’t as awesome this time. Sure, I guess it worked, but it also felt a bit manipulative.
The film is simply flawed, but it isn’t terrible. I think there are better options than this, but we might see O’Bell knock one out of the park in the future. 3/10