The Faith Community. 2017. Directed by Faith R. Johnson. Screenplay by Johnson & Robert A. Trezza.
Starring Oliver Palmer, Janessa Floyd, Jeremy Harris, Julia Feinberg, Aidan Hart, Heather Johnson, Grant Johnson, Jeffrey Brabant, & Michael Fiocco.
Vicious Apple Productions
Not Rated. 86 minutes.
Horror

★★★★

Disclaimer: The following review may contain slight spoilers. If you haven’t already seen the film, watch it & then come back. Lest ye be spoiled!

The.Faith.Community.(2017)-poster02Anybody who’s frequented this site likely knows that I’m a big fan of found footage, always willing to give these films a shot. So many people are jaded by them at this point, and rightfully so, because the industry’s been pounded with film after film, low budget efforts concentrating only on the rugged look rather than characterisation, or even plot. So it’s only natural a lot of viewers are tired, not in the least are horror lovers looking for something that can match up to The Blair Witch ProjectRecThe Poughkeepsie Tapes, and others.
Well, one thing’s for sure – The Faith Community has my vote as one of the better found footage horror efforts in the past few years, near the top of the heap. Usually when religion is part of the story in horror we’re given so much of the same regurgitated demonic possession, over and over. Whereas Ti West’s The Sacrament recreated the terror of cult leader Jim Jones, The Faith Community tackles pure religious fervour within a small community of people following one man, a prophet who calls himself the Messenger (Jeremy Harris). After a trio of people go into the woods to learn about this religious sect, they discover they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
The setup for the plot is one we’ve seen before, this isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means. But what the film does well is takes us, believably, into a horrific situation that unfolds gradually over a sparse 86 minute runtime. This isn’t a bunch of shaky cam shots, it isn’t all screaming and frantic dialogue. There’s a tense buildup, we get to know the characters well, and it all comes crashing down in a perfect, creepy way.
Faith.Community.(2017)-fanart18

I thought maybe Jesus was taking artistic liberties

Faith.Community.(2017)-fanart22Part of what draws the viewer into the film, and quick, are the characters. The cameraman, Colin (Jeffrey Brabant), in particular is enjoyable. Because there’s also an interesting dichotomy of faith happening here. The visiting trio with their camera are all believers, they’re religious; to an extent. But Colin, he’s definitely the most relaxed of the group, he believes but he isn’t what you’d call an extremist. He lures us in with youthful charm, then we get to know his friends, and later the community.
Once the Messenger is introduced, immediately things are unsettling. You can tell right off the bat he is an eerie, theatrical man, a constructed and composed individual who’s most certainly hiding something; what that is, who knows, though eventually it’s all revealed. It’s the confrontational interview with the Messenger that sets the viewer, by proxy of Colin, on edge. This is where that dichotomous sense of faith emerges, from those who believe in a more casual relationship with God v. those who take God and the Bible to an extremist vision of religion, one that’s possibly very destructive.
And this leads into one of the film’s biggest themes, as we come to see an overall metaphor of the sociopolitical landscape of our current postmodern society, torn apart by faith of the extremist sort, of all kinds, and people invested in an apocalyptic worldview (I’d toss the American Republicans in with this line of thinking, too). As one character named Michael (Oliver Palmer), especially terrifying, says directly: “War brings you closer to God.” If that’s not a far right-wing talking point in some insane little group of 2nd Amendment loving, Bible thumping, patriarchal nut jobs, then I don’t know what is, frankly.
Faith.Community.(2017)-fanart24

Theyre gone. Theyve been saved.”

The horror of the film erupts when the faithful have realised the extremely faithful have gone over the line, this descends the plot into pure adrenaline and fear. In a split second, everything changes. You can definitely see it coming, that doesn’t change the fact it’s drawn out with such suspense and tension it’s near unbearable. Colin, of course, sees through the whole charade, and his friends are caught up in the presence of the Messenger’s so-called art, fooled and blinded by their own faith, their willingness to believe. After the trio witness the performance of an Adam and Eve-style play in the woods, we’re plunged through an existentially horrifying moment or two as they each react in different ways. It’s well acted, well executed. This one scene creates a frantic sequence that doesn’t have to be filled with shaky camerawork. Rather, this sets up the final 20 minutes as uncomfortable real finale that’s utterly disturbing.
The Faith Community doesn’t have to step outside the conventions of found footage to make it interesting. In a day and age where the sub-genre is being reinvented mostly through gimmicks, it’s nice to see a film just try to be genuinely scary instead. The actors do a pretty good job, which helps sell all the intense, emotional, nail-biting drama driving the plot forward. Above all, the story and the plot are so compelling in their realistic horror that it’s hard not to find yourself gripped by the film’s events. It also helps that the found footage aspect is a constant, sometimes an aspect that falls by the wayside in the sub-genre when filmmakers are more concerned about the action than the unwritten rules of the format. Our experience as a viewer is altered for the better when the one camera catching all that action is the only camera to which we’re privy, heightening all those frights and all the suspense; it’s inescapable. For all these reasons, The Faith Community deserves a look from anybody even remotely fond of found footage.

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I'm a B.A.H. graduate & a Master's student with a concentration in pre-19th century literature. Although I've studied everything from Medieval literature onward, spent an extensive time studying post-modern works. I completed my Honours thesis on John Milton's Paradise Lost and the communal aspects of its conception, writing, as well as its later printing and publication. I'm starting my Master's program doing a Creative Thesis option aside from the coursework. This Thesis will eventually become my debut novel. I get to work with Newfoundland author Lisa Moore, one of the writers in residence at MUN. I am also a writer and a freelance editor. My stories "Funeral" and "Sight of a Lost Shore" are available in The Cuffer Anthologies Vol. VI & VII. Stories to be printed soon are "Night and Fog", and "The Book of the Black Moon" from Centum Press (both printed in 2016) and "Skin" from Science Fiction Reader. Another Centum Press anthology will contain my story "In the Eye of the Storm" to be printed in 2017. Newfoundland author Earl B. Pilgrim's latest novel The Adventures of Ernest Doane Volume I was edited by me, too. Aside from that I have a short screenplay titled "New Woman" that's going into production during 2017. Meanwhile, I'm writing more screenplays, working on editing a couple novels I've finished, and running this website/writing all of its content. I also write for Film Inquiry frequently. Please contact me at u39cjhn@mun.ca or hit me up on Twitter (@fathergore) if you want to chat, collaborate, or have any questions for me. I'm also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fathersonholygore. Cheers!

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