After accidentally being given the original cut of “Holy Ghost People,” which was not meant to be for review purposes, I decided to give the theatrical version a try. Are there differences between the two? Indeed, there are. Does it change my initial feelings about the movie? Yes and no.
A good chunk of the voiceover narration was removed from this version, and that really benefitted the film. The viewer got to experience what was happening and not be told how everything played out.
There are a few arcs that were different in this version, but publishing them here would spoil the movie, which I won’t do. These changes, which came after about the first 45 minutes, didn’t seem to add a whole lot to the film, but it also didn’t impact it in a negative way.
My second viewing of the film still left questions circling around my head. How can a woman be a bartender when she digs her fingernails into the palms of her hands? Do the people of the Church of One Accord only interact with the people involved with the church? Does Smiling Bobby have a deeper past? It’s kind of hard to tell without more exploration of the characters involved.
Joe Egender gives a great performance as Brother Billy, who is both psychotic and charming. Emma Greenwell’s performance is improved with the removal of a good chunk of the narration. Brendan McCarthy does fine work as the damaged Wayne, whose war experiences still haunt him.
This version of “Holy Ghost People” is a step up from the SXSW version, but it still felt like it needed more. Granted, this was a low budget feature, and the filmmakers probably couldn’t do all they wanted. This comes across as more of a good effort that still needed some work.
Director Mitchell Altieri captures the dark, moody atmosphere of the backwoods nicely, but the story still feels a bit lackluster. My original grade of C+ stands, but this is a better version of the film.