Newbie megger Zal Batmanglij & writing partner/actress Brit Marling got a distrib pick-up, but almost no commercial traction on this MumbleCore/Psychological Thriller about a pair of amateur video investigative journalists trying to crash a nascent mini-cult. The laughably transparent leader claims she’s from the future, but it’s hard to believe anyone would follow her to Dairy Queen for a free double-dipped cone let alone paradise. The film spends most of its time trying to tantalize us, vigorously applying the supernatural/metaphysical ‘maybe’ factor, all the way to a ‘gotcha’ denouement that feels more like narrative surrender than the gasp-worthy moment they were aiming at. Those who can keep their focus thru the flat uncadenced acting that passes for naturalism in these things (just imagine giving the cast a good slap every now & then) may get something out of noting how much the peer-pressure inside the cult resembles the group-think mentality at Film Fests that gives so much crap premature commercial/artistic buzz.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The Gold Standard for ghostly paranormal tales remains Henry James THE TURN OF THE SCREW; disturbingly filmed as THE INNOCENTS/’61. But Jeff Nichols’ TAKE SHELTER/’11, while hardly a complete success, is a nearer companion piece, right down to its infuriating ‘gotcha’ twist-ending.