This film is quite short but feels longer. It takes a while to get going and the middle section is nicely paced instead of racing from one shock to another like many films in this genre do. It is nice to see a film taking its time to set the scene and introduce characters and it builds up the creepy up quite nicely.
Kevin and Jodie are documentary film makers in Australia on the look out for good stories to capture who end up embroiled in an isolationist cult in backwoods Australia. In the introductory section the two main characters are filming participants in a drug and alcohol support group talking about their problems. One of these people gives them a lead on a much more interesting story: a potential cult located in the middle of a forest from which he has recently escaped. So the pair go on a road trip to visit this cult and see if they can film and interview the members about their experiences.
The introductory piece is well done, showing the boring behind the scenes process of setting up for interviewing people as well as some of the interviews. However, this section of the film is actually quite boring and doesn’t add much to the overall story. This is perhaps a limitation of the found footage format as they couldn’t add any extra scenes to explain or fill in the plot. It would have been nice to see a bit more about who these characters are and their backgrounds. When Jodie starts talking about her experiences of documentary film making abroad this comes as a bit of a surprise as it isn’t even alluded to before it is needed by the plot.
It would have been nice if there was some footage from previous jobs, maybe from foreign war zones or something like the characters allude to later on in the film. This would have moved away from the feeling that these are student or community TV reporters which I had for most of the film.
After driving around and interviewing local people about the cult (none of them have heard of it), Jodie and Kevin get to the woods and meet some of the cult members who take them (blindfolded) deeper into the woods to meet the rest of their group. Initially everyone is very friendly and welcoming and the situation seems very idyllic. OK, it’s a bit creepy that there is only one man in the whole group, the magnificently simultaneously creepy and charming Michael Godhead played by David Macrae, but everyone seems to be enjoying their off grid lifestyle. The younger girls play in the fields and woods and the older ones help with the farm and food. The older women provide a mother figure for everyone and Michael provides love and spiritual guidance to the group. No one is allowed to leave but then no one really wants to.
Of course as time goes by, odd things start to come out of the woodwork and Kevin and Jodie both start to question the seemingly idyllic existence of the group. Jodie seems much more inclined to accept the cult’s alternative practices while Kevin is more inclined to interfere. For a while it seems like the outsiders are going to interfere or do something stupid and trigger some kind of backlash. However, it is the cult’s actions that finally bring things to a head.
Eventually they are faced with the choice of whether to intervene or respect the practices of this alternative community. They are hampered by the fact that they are dependent on the group to find their way out of the vast wilderness area that they are in. Interestingly the two characters react differently and come up with different plans to deal with the situation they find themselves in.
The middle part of the film is well filmed, despite the dependence on hand held camera work to preserve the found footage feel. The tension and creepiness builds nicely over this section and there are some scenes which are genuinely creepy and disturbing without resorting to many of the genre clichés.
In the last 10 minutes, everything goes a lot more standard horror movie with stereotypical shaky camera work, running through woods at night and more screen time for the grass and undergrowth than anything else. There are of course night time chase scenes lit only by the light from the camera. Etc. ad nauseum. However, in this short film, this section is mercifully short (rather than for example most of the film like in Blair Witch) and leads to a genuinely interesting if not entirely original ending. It also leaves some questions unanswered which I like.