Review: ‘The Other Lamb’ will haunt and hypnotize.

THE OTHER LAMB
A girl born into an all-female cult led by a man in their compound begins to question his teachings and her own reality.

The Other Lamb relies, almost entirely, on the abilities of Raffey Cassidy and Michiel Huisman. These two could have a film of their own. You will find yourself yearning for more once the credits roll. So many questions remain, and I do mean that as a compliment. The intensity brought by both these actors adds to the eerie nature of the plot. There is a visceral pull that makes you keep watching even as you are horrified by the subject matter. A film about abusive misogyny and subversive female empowerment in the strangest of circumstance equals brilliant storytelling in my book.

The vivid cinematography makes for a stunning viewing experience on its own. Add in the chilling screenplay, engrossing editing, and breathtaking performances from the almost entirely female cast and you have a gorgeous portrait of brainwashing and inevitable betrayal. The Other Lamb has an otherworldly feel. It will make your skin crawl as it grips your body entirely with its storytelling.

Below you will find a clip that very beautifully illustrates the mood of The Other Lamb.

The film comes to your screen today April 10th. Check out the trailer below.

THE OTHER LAMB– A FILM BY MALGORZATA SZUMOWSKA
Written by Catherine S. McMullen
Starring Raffey Cassidy (Vox Lux, The Killing of a Sacred Deer),
Michiel Huisman (The Invitation, Game of Thrones), Denise Gough (Colette)
About Director MALGORZATA SZUMOWSKA

Born in Kraków, Małgorzata Szumowska is one of the most prominent Polish directors of today. Szumowska has been honored with several international awards, including the Teddy Award for IN THE NAME OF at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival and the Silver Leopard Award for 33 SCENES FROM LIFE at the 2008 Locarno Film festival. Her film, ELLES (2011), featuring Juliette Binoche and Anaïs Demoustier, was sold to over 40 countries. BODY (2015) won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 65th Berlinale and her film, MUG (2018), was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Berlinale. Szumowska’s latest film, THE OTHER LAMB, a 2017 Black List script starring Denise Gough, Raffey Cassidy, and Michiel Huisman debuted at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and will open in April courtesy of IFC Films.

Review: Jared Leto executive produced doc ‘HOLY HELL’ leaves a singed psyche.

HOLY HELL

Opening Theatrically May 27th, 2016

HolyHell_Still1.jpg

A Film by Will Allen

Executive Produced by Jared Leto

*Sundance Film Festival – Official Selection*

What makes something a cult? According to the dictionary a cult is, “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” If that’s so, then by definition aren’t most religions a cult? Can one individual spew crazy ideas and gather a following of people who seem to be functioning human beings despite the intrinsically ridiculous nature of the information they are being fed? Well, of course. Just ask Donald Trump. Executive Produced by Jared Leto, HOLY HELL takes us into a group defined by the outside as a cult. But what did the members believe then and now?

In 1985, Will Allen became a member of The Buddhafield, a Los Angeles area spiritual group. A recent film school graduate, Allen began to chronicle the group’s activities that centered on their leader, a mysterious individual they called The Teacher, or Michel. Over time, the group’s dark side began to surface, until finally, a shocking allegation against The Teacher tore the group apart – all in front of Allen’s camera. This incredible archive of video footage became the basis for HOLY HELL.

holy hellWill Allen‘s 22 years of footage appear, at first, to resemble a long-lost infomercial from the 80’s. It only takes a few minutes to realize that this is not VHS from our youth but the continuous documenting of a group of people seeking something different. What they ultimately find is a mysterious man who is nothing he claims to be. Utilizing intimate, present-day, sit down interviews with members of Buddhafield combined with Allen’s chronological documentation of the group’s daily activities, HOLY HELL is unlike anything we’ve seen before. To have such unguarded footage and insider knowledge is pretty unprecedented, especially for this length of time. From private therapy sessions to retreats, public outings and the eventual breakdown, each year is more shocking than the last. There are moments that will make you cringe, question your judgement, and certainly, times that will turn your stomach. HOLY HELL is as relevant today as it was when it began its seedling production. It will both open your eyes and terrify you.

Opening Theatrically May 27th, 2016

Jeremy’s Review: Alex Gibney’s ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’ Is a Scary and Spot-On Adaptation of Lawrence Wright’s Book

going clear posterHaving read Lawrence Wright‘s bestseller Going Clear before seeing Alex Gibney‘s documentary adaptation, I was well-versed in much of what this film covers with regards to the “Church” of Scientology. The book is dense with the craziest shit about founder L. Ron Hubbard and the operation of his religion and the zealots that surrounded him and took over after his death in 1986. The book focused heavily on the journey of Oscar winning screenwriter-director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale) through the ranks of the church as he attempted to go “up the bridge” to the highest levels, covering nearly 35 years. His resignation letter hit like a ton of bricks and really brought to light many grievances that had been trickling out from ex-church members without much in the way of corroboration since the church had so far been able to silence those who left through extreme intimidation tactics. Even armed with all of this knowledge, seeing this story play out on screen did nothing more than seal my perception that Scientology is a bigoted, dangerous enslaving cult.

going clear - la office

Gibney’‘s film is incredibly well-crafted like the rest of his films. He fleshes out Wright‘s story by bringing a long list of extremely high ranking former – Scientologists, among them are Haggis, former Executive Director of the Office of Special Affairs Mike Rinder, former Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center Marty Rathbun, former SeaOrg executive Tom Devocht, handler for John Travolta, Spanky Taylor and actor Jason Beghe (check out his video describing his life in Scientology). Wright also appears filling in gaps. This is a veritable who’s who of ex-Scientologists and each of their stories are incredibly compelling and really sad in so many ways. Many of them spent decades in the church and you can see the pain it has caused them and still causing them as they are routinely harassed by members of the church and private investigators that are hired by the church.

going clear - mike rinder

Funny enough, the film doesn’t concentrate a ton of time on L. Ron Hubbard himself. Sure, there is enough to give us a working knowledge of who he was and the evolution of his ideas into what later became Scientology.  Of course Hubbard (who famously said, “You wanta make real money, you gotta start a religion”) and his legacy are never far away, but the main focus of the film is what happened with the church after he died and the direction it took under its new leader, David Miscavige. Miscavige is portrayed as a paranoiac who has gone to extreme measures to consolidate his power, doling out abuse in any way to keep his detractors, both real and perceived, in check. The people listed above corroborate these charges, they being the very reasons they left.

going clear - lrh

We get our requisite time on Tom Cruise‘s transition into the poster boy for the church and his special relationship with Miscavige, although the book goes into far more detail about how abusive Miscavige is even to someone like Cruise. His rise and the church’s win in the battle with the IRS over getting tax exemption status and the absurd way that they ended up getting it, really opened the flood gates of money and the church’s ability to snap up real estate all over the world adding to their coffers. But the more steam the church gained, the more Miscavige flew into rage and pushed out those who were closest to him.

going clear - miscavige

This is a powerful story and one that is quite scary. The vigor that the members of the church, and I do use that term as loosely as one can, protect their beliefs is undying. If someone they know leaves the church, they completely disconnect from them and never talk to them again. They dedicate their lives, and some even sign a billion year contact with them, to the messages of Hubbard. They are fanatical in ways that echo the followers of Jim Jones, but go far beyond sans the suicide. The words of the former Scientologists are harrowing and Gibney does a great job of illustrating what they go through after leaving and why the followers of this “religion” are as cult-like as you’ll find (here’s a good example).

US actor, Tom Cruise smiles during the i

There will be blow back from this film, but it’s good to know that HBO lawyered up from the outset of making this movie in anticipation of Scientology trying in their typical fashion of shutting anything down that is critical of their beliefs. Gibney and company pull back the curtain and really expose Scientology for what it is – a quack religion that is built on the money of the members who sacrifice literally everything they have for the church. The active members are, by all intents and purposes, enslaved both physically and mentally and in a Hotel California kind of way – you can check out, but you can never leave. Like so many documentaries of late, this film plays out more like a thriller than a non-fiction film telling a story, which engages the viewer even more than the fascinating story unfolding over the two hour running time. The church likens itself to a humanitarian effort, that it is doing the work that no one else will or can, but the words of people like Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun quickly counter that notion. The charges in the film might be unbelievable without the cast of former members to flesh it all out, but due to the sheer absurdity of the beliefs of this particular cult, I can’t say that’s really the case. I think the most shocking things are that they were able to coerce the government into giving them tax exemption and that they get away with the culture of degradation and violence that appears to be rampant and unchecked.

This is an absolute must see film this year. I give HBO and Alex Gibney all the credit in the world for tackling this subject knowing there was going to be legal wranglings from the very beginning of its production. In addition, I urge you to read Lawrence’s book. It is able to give far greater detail about much of what is covered in the film.I dare you not to be intrigued.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Jeremy’s Review: Riley Stearns’ ‘Faults’ Gives a Killer Twist on Cult Life

faults posterCults are fucking terrifying to me. Watch Martha Marcy May Marlene and try not to be creeped the hell out. There is so much psychological warfare that goes on in these stories that it’s easy to question whether or not you would be able to resist the charms of a charismatic leader who says the right things to you at a possibly vulnerable time in your life. Hell, Scientologists have been milking this notion ever since its inception 3 million years ago to combat the evil Xenu. Films that depict cult life, the aftereffects or the process of removing someone from the grips of a cult can turn campy, silly and unintentionally funny (think of the Veronica Mars cult episode appropriately named “Drinking the Kool Aid”). The absurdity of how one falls into it is a foreign concept to many of us and that’s why they can easily stray into this territory. Riley Stearns, writer-director of the fantastic Faults, flips the script with these type of films/stories and gives us a fresh look perspective, one that is most deserving of your time this weekend. Read More →