Religion can be a powerful tool for those wishing to confuse and manipulate others into deadly actions. Giving someone something to believe in and controlling the belief system from which their faith is built can give someone exponential amount of power. Infamous cult leaders such as Charles Manson and Jim Jones proved this by using their own outlandish interpretations of the Christian Bible’s book of Revelations. In Faith R. Johnson’s directorial debut, The Faith Community, a new cult leader is born. And his numbers are growing.
When three college students embark on a wilderness Bible retreat to connect with God’s creation through nature collaborating with a Christian community called The Church of the Holy Name, they find more than what they bargained for. Believing they have entered the camp of an extremely pious Christian camp, Colin (Jeffrey Brabant), who is filming for documentation, is the first to become uneasy at the sight of numerous makeshift wooden crosses made from twigs. His friends Andrew (Aidan Hart, Cold Case, The Blacklist: Redemption) and Hannah (Jenessa Floyd) attempt to put his mind at ease implying that he is making something out of nothing.
When Colin begins conducting interviews of Holy Name members beginning with the organization’s leader, The Messenger (Jeremy Harris), Colin’s suspicion that something is not right is reignited. After interviewing community member Michael (Oliver Palmer), Colin is convinced that he needs to speak with his friends. However, this much-needed discussion is delayed when the dinner bell rings as everyone sits around a fire to eat supper prepared by Isabel (Julia Feinberg), another member of The Holy Name. Following an interview with Isabel, Colin is spooked beyond belief. After The Holy Name members conduct a deranged Bible story theatrical play and Hannah displays incredibly odd behavior, events take a twisted turn for the worst.
Some horror fans will likely give this feature an automatic pass simply due to its found footage aspect. Though this filmmaking technique can be distracting at times, it works well for The Faith Community as the three students set out to create a documentary of their experience. Working the premise of a documentary into the story allows the film to avoid the jarring and nauseatingly jerky pitfalls to which many found footage films fall victim. However, a couple of scenes leave the camera pointed simply to the ground. While the dialogue is more important at these moments, it may have helped to incorporate visuals to enhance the purpose of these scenes.
While The Faith Community successfully evades many found footage blunders that make some films unwatchable, it is the portrayal of insanity that drives this feature. Though the cast is outstanding in general, Floyd gives a phenomenal performance as her character slips into a downward spiral of madness. Giving an equally impressive performance is Palmer’s portrayal of a military veteran who was discharged after losing his mind in a violent rage murdering a fellow soldier. However, stealing the screen is Harris as he truly embodies the character of a cult leader who holds a disturbing interpretation of the Bible and the book of Revelations.
Relying heavily on simplicity, The Faith Community is absent of bloodshed and gore. However, with a talented cast carrying the film, these visuals are not necessarily needed. While it may not be for everyone, those who do not mind found footage films are in for a twisted story about what happens when fundamentalism is taken to a deadly extreme.