Cult is a mockumentary about a faltering religious group called Friends at the End (F.A.T.E.), who worship a comet that passes over Earth every four years. The group believes that the comet is, in fact, an alien spaceship that will save them from an approaching doomsday event set to engulf the world in flames. Despite leveraging nearly every familiar mockumentary device available, Luke Ibbetson’s debut feature succeeds in being both hysterical and unexpectedly heartfelt.
The film follows a small documentary crew who travel to a remote village in Cornwall, England, to live amongst F.A.T.E.’s last remaining devotees. Unfazed by the sect’s previous doomsday miscalculation, the group is enthusiastically preparing for the comet’s final June arrival (i.e., the end of the world).
“…a mockumentary about a faltering religious group called Friends at the End…”
Appropriately, this residual group of believers includes a handful of fringe weirdos. Comet (Calvin Crawley) – a character Michael Cera could have easily played ten years ago – is a painfully naïve young man whose life is controlled, quite disturbingly, by his ideologically-possessed mother, Irma (Sanna Kelly). Crawley does an excellent job of making Comet’s timid, dewy-eyed conduct both cringe-worthy and adorable. He wears the same childlike grin whether he’s staring lovingly at his new crush or showing off his latest painting of a burning planet Earth.
Beck (Marianna Chase), a serial cultist and raging termagant, scares the other group members and serves up some of the funniest gags. Meanwhile, Angela (Jacqueline Kirwan), an obsessive sex addict, and Manaus (Althyr Pivatto), a former keyboardist and practicing psychonaut, bring about additional layers of dysfunction to the cult’s dynamics. Although they sound like the kind of over-the-top characters common to traditional British satire, the filmmaker writes each of them with notable compassion, and they are played with surprising depth by the actors.
"…at its best when it was at its most strange..."