I really need to stop misinterpreting the titles of the movies I’m given to review. My gut reaction to getting Holy Ghost-People was utter excitement. Was this going to be the wacky misadventures of a ghost who couldn’t shake his past Catholicism? Or could it be a horror movie about paranormal investigators cleaning a church of all it’s past preachers?!? Turns out, Holy-Ghost People is about a woman crashing the camp of a bunch of holy rollers looking to find her sister.
My ideas were better.
It doesn’t appear that I was the only one misinterpreting what this movie was. The film itself seemed to think that it was the American version of The Wicker Man. To it’s credit, Holy Ghost People is a better Wicker Man than the shit show we got with Nicholas Cage, but it also sucks out any individuality it may have had going for it. Characters like the charismatic leader, mysterious woman, and anti-hero lead seem ripped right from it’s inspiration, rather than be inspired by it, and if you combine this with the recognizable story beats, it’s easy to become completely distracted. I’m not saying that the filmmakers we deliberately trying to copy The Wicker Man (I’m sorry, homage; every since Quentin Tarantino got a pass, we can’t call out blatant plagiarism anymore), but if some asshole like me can pick up this vibe, then certainly one of the cast or crew could have figured it out and said something.
Despite the stock characters on display, the actors manage to cut their own swath and impress. Well, mostly. Wayne (Brendan McCarthy) tries very hard to come off as an anti-hero (his alcoholism being responsible for his asshole-ish behavior and forcing a resentment towards the church, while also being the catalyst to forming a connection with it), yet his lack of energy dampens the character’s edginess. He goes for Joel from The Last of Us, but winds up looking like a background townie from Fargo. Was it talent, direction, or something else that kept Wayne from becoming the badass he was expected to be? Whatever it was, the movie went down a peg whenever he, and that pederast moustache of his, had to carry a scene.
Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) and Brother Billy (Joe Egender), on the other hand, run the gambit in the other direction. As the troubled, yet noble woman looking for her sister, Charlotte is boring on her own. She’s willing to put herself in harm’s way to find out the truth, whooptie shit. What else? This is exactly the type of character who would do this, meaning that the only suspense is hoping she won’t get caught, and NOT wondering how this is affecting her as a person. Then in walked Brother Billy, like a fan on your balls during summer time (for you ladies out there, I’m trying to say that it’s refreshing).
At first, I thought Brother Billy was just a knock off Giovanni Ribisi, but as he kept popping up, he made everything better. His friendly, good nature damn near convinced me that the evil things he was hiding weren’t that bad considering everything else. Those pesky main characters should have known the repercussions of disturbing the society HE created! Why not let them die via [SPOILER] and [SPOILER] (I can’t be that evil; not unless it’s for revenge…)?!? Brother Billy injected the film with the moral ambiguity it needed. He tests the characters by relating to them, disrupts the truth with honesty, and forces the audience to question what parts of him are bullshit, and which parts are earnest. What could have been a throwaway villain, turned into a fully realized person that I swore I read about. If only the plot could have kept up with him.
At only eighty-eight minutes, it boggles my mind why they didn’t delve into more of the story. Stuff just kind of happens because the story needed it to happen to move on. Why does the alcoholic stick around the church when he could have taken the stranger’s money, went back to town, and bought more booze? He could have come back later to pick her up (“What if the girl got herself into danger?” The fuck does her care?), yet he sticks around and is forced to pretend to be Charlotte’s father. It’s because both characters needed to be there. Why did Brother Cole come to the rescue at the end? He and Wayne got close, but not close enough to believe that he’d turn against the church that gave him a happy life. It happened because the main characters needed backup to escape. And why didn’t anyone tell Charlotte about her sister? The audience finds out what happened via an awkward cross cut, but at the end of the movie, the characters don’t know. These are all problems, yet as I said before, there’s no reason that an extra fifteen minutes or so couldn’t have been added to iron out these issues.
I may have complained a lot about Holy Ghost People, but in the end, it’s not like it’s a terrible movie. It’s competently made, and it’s obvious that everyone from the actors, to the filmmakers, to the crew members setting each scene gave a shit about what they were making. Not once was I bored, yet that’s not enough to make me recommend it to anyone. The only thing I took away from this film is that I need to hire Joe Egender if I ever make a movie. Beyond that, all I can say about this movie is ‘meh’. If it’s on demand, and you watched eeeeevverrryything else, it might be worth checking out before you turn to your list of ‘this looks stupid and fucked up, but I kind of want to see it’ movies.