Something wicked this way comes in Nevill’s (The Ritual, 2012, etc.) modern horror tale.
Kyle Freeman is a respected but deep-in-debt London-based documentary filmmaker. Contacted by Max Solomon, a prosperous New-Age publisher, Freeman’s asked to make a film about The Temple of the Last Days, a 1960-1970s hippie-era cult that is an autocratic semireligious lifestyle stew of everything from Scientology to Buddhism, at least until it culminated in mass murder in Arizona. Solomon has prearranged travel and script, and he pressures Freeman to agree immediately. The fact the fee is £100,000 makes quick acquiescence easy. The fact that Solomon himself originated the cult’s predecessor group, The Last Gathering, is kept secret. Solomon meant well, only wanting to “create one small pocket of cooperation and decency.” That lasted until Sister Katherine assumed leadership. Katherine, sociopathic daughter of a down-and-out aristocrat, had spent time in prison for running a brothel. Freeman, along with cameraman Dan, travels to sites of the cult’s activity, from Clarendon Road to Normandy to Arizona and back to London, meeting warped witnesses to the paranormal. At each site, Freeman himself experiences apparitions and manifestations, enough to provoke hallucinogenic nightmares. Only after Freeman visits Antwerp and examines an ancient triptych painted by Niclaes Verhulst does he comprehend that the skeletal demons who have manifested through walls intent on mayhem—demons that he has experienced at each site and at his apartment—can be traced to the Blood Friends, ghosts of followers of an Anabaptist heretic, Konrad Lorche, leader of a 16th-century religious commune. After Lorche declared himself God’s one king and fed a French bishop to a pig, he and his followers were besieged, captured, and burned alive or beheaded—only to linger in some hellish purgatory to await remanifestation. Neville’s writing is deft and believable. Tension abounds, right up to a long, bloody denouement at Sister Katherine’s luxurious California mansion, where the Blood Friends await rejuvenation.
Obsession and megalomania, sex and power make for a sophisticated, literate and well-crafted paranormal horror.