Director – Riley Stearns
Cast – Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Ellis, Jon Gries, Lance Reddick, Beth Grant, Cruz Flores
Release Year – 2015
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Faults is the debut feature length horror film for Riley Steams and it co-stars his wife, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The story follows Ansel, a leading authority on the subject of mind control whose controversial past has left him on his last leg. When the parents of a young girl who fell for a mysterious cult present him an offer he can’t refuse, he begins the risky task of deprogramming her. As he battles for control over her mind and his debts, he begins to realize he may be in over his head.
This story is one that will grasp your attention and refuse to let you go. At first we are introduced to Ansel, whose personality is unlikely to grow on you. It is obvious the life he leads is not the life he wants. He’s a leech whose book on mind control does little to support him financially. After this brief introduction he is confronted by the desperate parents who are at their wits end over getting their daughter back home. Ansel explains how the process of deprogramming Claire is extreme, unconventional, expensive, and only has about a 50% success rate. They don’t have any other choice. At the 19 minute mark the process begins and the rest of the film delivers one of the more original stories of recent time.
Ansel knows nothing about the situation he is in. He knows little of Claire’s past, and has never heard of the cult she belongs to. This lack of information is passed on to the viewer, and we learn alongside Ansel. While he was questioning her, building a baseline, I found myself asking questions of my own. This mystery element envelops you, which I always find to be a big positive in horror films. Claire is obviously the source of the mystery, and she also assumes the role of the conflict. While Ansel remains the focal point of the story, we see more and more of Claire as the tension begins to grow. The more we/Ansel learn about her, the more she begins to open up. Ansel and her parents see this as progress, but is it really progress, or is this going to blow up in their faces? It is questions like this that will keep you hooked. Good acting performances from Leland Orser and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ansel and Claire should also be credited for creating an engaging experience.
I believe it is safe to assume that the majority of people who view this film will give it a watch because of its use of a cult. Claire’s cult is called Faults, and I am glad to see they aren’t as cliché as the cults in other films. There are some similarities, but where they differ here is there is a strong sense of the supernatural involved. We see some unexplainable events occur, and either it’s all in our/Ansel’s head, or Claire has achieved what she had been searching for in Faults. It is these scenes that provide the tension, and I was impressed with the chills they gave me.
So how much horror is in Faults? Well, it isn’t devoutly horror. I would refer to this as a solid thriller with elements of horror. The supernatural element introduces the horror and a sequence at the end of the film solidifies it. Yes, people die in this film. Steams’ execution of these scenes is fantastic. He does not have to show very much to deliver some good chills, and that is a testament to good direction.
Overall, Faults is a positive thriller that will eventually deliver on the horror. After a quick start it becomes a bit of a slow burner, but good direction will keep you engaged until the tension arrives.