Cultic (2006) – By Duane L. Martin

 I’m going to start this off by saying I can’t give the story part of this film a completely fair review.  The reason for this is because the dialogue was so poorly recorded.  Combine that with the New Zealand accents and background music that walked all over the dialogue in many key spots and it was a deadly combination.  So any comments I make about the story will be basically comment on what I could make of it.

Now, that said, Cultic is the story of three people, two guys and a girl, who were sent on a team building exercise retreat where they do paintball wars and other things to encourage people to work together in teams.  The bulk of the beginning of the movie is an older guy in a fez hat with a way thick (Jewish?) accent, telling us about each of the three people and how they ended up at the team building thing.  There’s also a wizard who casts a spell that causes the three to end up somewhere else, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The three go to the team building thing, and after meeting up and getting to know each other a bit, the next day they end up doing paintball wars with all the other people there.  While in the woods however, the wizard’s spell takes effect and they kinda go duh for a second and then start wandering around until they end up in the presence of the wizard.  They go back to his village with him, which is run by some bitchy, suspicious queen and her relatively nice son who falls for the girl in our trio.  The thing is, this is like a fantasy village.  They were taken there by the spell and all seem kinda dazed and not too weirded out by the fact that they’re there.  Four month’s later the wizard shows them some graffiti and the girl sees someone she recognizes from the outside living as one of the villagers and they end up going back home, leaving me with no clue as to why they were there in the first place.  I think Cryptic might have been a better name for this film.  Oh, and the people at the village they were in all seemed like a bunch of flower children hippies, and they had this fertility festival with another village that was full of Mad Max types where lots of hippie dancing and merry making went on and then there was a big swap where each other’s villagers did it with the other villages people…I guess.  I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Does it sound like I’m confused.  I am.  I realize there were some references to things in this movie that only New Zealanders would get, but the whole story in this film just left me feeling lost.  Part of it can be blamed on the dialogue being so hard to pick up on, but a lot of it was just the story itself.  It all felt confused, and kept jumping forward with changes in the characters situations and no explanations of what happened in between.  I don’t honestly think I’ve ever been left for confused by a film.

As for the rest of it, the acting ranged from poor to just ok.  Most of the dialogue I could hear sounded both like "written" dialogue and like it was being "read" and or recited rather than havnig a natural flow and feel to it.  The story could have used a LOT of work, and since the dialogue was recorded so poorly, there definitely shouldn’t have been any background music at all running while people were talking.  As I said, in many parts of the film, the background music just walked all over the already difficult to hear dialogue and made it basically impossible to follow what was being said unless you’re a professional lip reader.

To be fair, I should also note that this wasn’t exactly a professional film production.  They basically made it on no budget with up to 300 different volunteers, none of which had any formal film training, and virtually no financial support at all.  Check out the website for the story of how this film came to be.  It’s actually a really nice story about a lot of people who donated of their time and of themselves to the cause of getting it made and I do genuinely applaud their dedication and their efforts.

I feel bad about giving this film a bad review.  The film maker, Jennifer Russell who sent it to me is really, really nice.  That can’t play a part in my reviews though as being honest about my feelings toward a movie have to come first in my reviews, and honestly, I just wasn’t feeling this one.  It might be interesting to some people as a one time watcher, but I wouldn’t think most people would watch it more than that.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.cultic.gen.nz.

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Editor’s Note: I have received word on August 8, 2009 that the film has been altered from the version reviewed here, so this review is no longer entirely applicable.  However, because this is a review of the version of the film that I received and the general content of the film is still the same, I am leaving this review posted for reference.