In a nightmare clearly inspired by NXIVM, Jillian (Malin Ackerman) and Blair (Lorenza Izzo) are fleeing from the grasp of Seth (Chris Messina) and his “sanctuary,” THE AVIARY.
Blair’s only motivation is to escape, but Jillian has another plan in mind – Seth’s stolen computer contains hundreds of video files that capture his “sessions,” each one starting with him embracing his disciples and asking, “What’s in the way of your joy today?” Jillian is also convinced that the proof of what happened to Deliah, a missing longtime member of The Aviary and Seth’s original partner, is somewhere in the files.
Their journey across a New Mexican desert is treacherous; with only a few backpacks of essentials including a map and very little food and water, the duo soon finds themselves lost and hallucinating in the heat of the day while shivering through their nights and often awakening in a different place from one another.
These hallucinations include hearing and sometimes even seeing Seth, and the women realize that whatever methods he used to manipulate them into loyalty are still in effect. The harder they try to shake his influence, the tighter his control seems to get. Can they break free together, or are they fated to be under Seth’s control forever?
Co-Writers/Directors Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite put together an effective thriller, and both Malin and Lorenza are fantastic. I really enjoyed that the two women take up the majority of the screen time, and their back-and-forth chemistry is great.
As far as horror/cult movies go, this is a really slow burn – there’s no big, splashy moments of gore here – but still it had a solid landing and is a really interesting exploration of mind control and abuse. Really my only complaint is that I wish it was just a little bit shorter, as some of the scenes drag on longer than they need to.