Promise (2008)

Rating: D+

Dir: David Michael Quiroz Jr.
Star: Kurt Kubicek, Noelle Wheeler, Ron Bowen, Tiffany Shepis

Places we did not know existed: Happy Jack, Arizona. Yet it does exist, up on the Mogollon Rim, and according to the end credits of this, there is a Happy Jack Film Commission. I find this difficult to believe, since according to Wikipedia, even their post office left in 1983. Since I know you’re wondering, it’s not named after The Who’s song. Again per Wikipedia, “Happy Jack may have been named for a cheerful local lumberman. However, another newspaper report says the Coconino National Forest Supervisor Ronald Rotty named Happy Jack after an area of Wyoming where a bandit named Happy Jack committed crimes.” Because either would be a great reason to name a town.

All of which is considerably more interesting than discussing the film, a local micro-budget effort that drags on and provides nothing resembling the cover. It’s the story of college students Jesse (Kubicek) and Selene (Wheeler), who go for a weekend getaway up North, only to find their vehicle disabled, and themselves kidnapped by the devotees of a religious cult. It’s run by Abraham (Bowen) – apparently inspired by Warren Jeffs, I suspect, who was a big thing in the Southwest around the time this was made. He abducts and brainwashes young women, for use as wives to his sons, after breaking them in himself, naturally. It’s up to Jesse to take on Abraham and his minions, and save Selene from a life as… Well, I guess a Handmaid’s Tale re-enactor.

The best thing you can say about this is, it’s at least a bit different from the usual microbudget horror. Normally, when you have an amateur film-maker with his friends, a forest and a camera, there’s going to be a slasher pic; possibly a Bigfoot or other monster movie in the making. This does, at least, go in a different direction with its story of a religious cult and its leader. Beyond that, however, there’s very little worthy of praise – divine or otherwise (really, for a religious cult, they do precious little religionizing). Particularly problematic is a structure which insists on taking the viewer out of the experience. and dropping them into extended flashbacks, thattypically add little or nothing much. Though they do help explain why Jesse is able to single-handedly take down a slew of militia types. Your choice as to whether you find it credible or not. I went with “not”.

Otherwise, there’s a lot of Jesse creeping about, both in the woods and about the corridors of Abraham’s facility, and audio that varies wildly from competent to “unusable but still in the movie”. I was kinda amused by the scene of two cultists supposedly “driving” in a car, which very clearly isn’t going anywhere. Tiffany Shepis shows up as one of the hostages, does little of note, and is still the best actress present. Outside of a somewhat messy, if jam-resembling head-shot, her breasts are the only exploitative element here. I’m sure she’ll forgive me for saying their unexpected appearance will probably be remembered, well after everything else in this one has faded from memory.