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HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced by Joe Egender, Kevin Artigue, 
Phil Flores, Mitchell Altieri, Jeffrey Allard
Written by Kevin Artigue, Joe Egender. 
Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores
Directed by Mitchell Altieri
Starring Emma Greenwell, Brendan McCarthy, 
Cameron Richardson, Roger Aaron Brown, 
Donald Patrick Harvey, Joe Egender

Interesting if minor film examines a way-off-the-grid religious sect. Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) pays an alcoholic ex-Marine and Afghanistan conflict vet (Brendan McCarthy) to drive her to the Church of One Accord to find her estranged, drug-addicted sister. 

What they find is a cloistered, seemingly well-meaning group of religious fanatics who employ snake-handling into their worship.

Holy Ghost People is always interesting, if mostly low-key, yet in the end, it doesn’t add up to much.

Still, it’s very much worth seeing, for its palpable backwoods atmosphere and for a detailed look at a very specific sect.
 
The only major problem I had with the film involved the snakes.

Most of the serpents used in the snake handling scenes appeared to be pythons and boas, and yet we always hear rattling on the soundtrack. There are even scenes where we can see apparently CGI rattles on the ends of said pythons and boas!   Huh?  I ain’t no herpetologist, but I can tell the difference between a boa and a rattlesnake.  As someone who works in the industry – and certainly in light of the recent Sarah Jones incident – I’m all for “safety first”.  But I imagine something else could have been done to remedy these moments.

Faults aside, Holy Ghost People has many more fine qualities than debits.  The acting is across-the-board impressive, with a special mention for Joe Egender, who plays the de facto leader of the sect, Brother Billy.  It’s a magnetic performance by the relative newcomer, who could easily play Giovanni Ribisi’s brother, by the way.  He can play charismatic and persuasive one moment, then repulsive and frightening the next.  Methinks he’s got a great career ahead of him.

Character actor Don Harvey (Casualties of War) also makes a strong impression as well in a small, but juicy role.

It’s also nice that Holy Ghost People avoids many clichés of backwoods melodramas while still being creepy and unsettling.

Again, nothing to write home about, but it’s an engrossing, nifty little movie.

Holy Ghost People is currently in theaters and available on VOD and iTunes
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