Cult Followers – Rediscovering ‘Ticket to Heaven’ (Canada 1981 – 108 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - December 22, 2014
Cult Followers – Rediscovering ‘Ticket to Heaven’ (Canada 1981 – 108 mins)

A movie that’s as timely now as it was when it was made, ‘Ticket to Heaven’ is a scary account of how even the most critical of us could be susceptible to the supremely clever methods that some cults use to induct new members into their fold.

A depressed young teacher called David (Nick Mancuso) becomes an easy target for a religious sect called Heavenly Children who, through deprivation of sleep and privacy, soon brainwash him into joining their cult. With the help of his family and friends, including a would-be comic (Saul Rubinek), vulnerable David is rescued from his ‘captors’ with the hope of being de-programmed back into society, where he can learn to trust once again.

Italian born Nick Mancuso is very good as the likable David. Mancuso had previously co-starred in the cult sea horror ‘Death Ship’ (’80), and would later make tough-guy appearances in action favourites such as ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Under Siege’ (both ’92). Canadian actor Saul Rubinek impresses here as Larry, David’s friend and would-be rescuer who injects some humour into the movie. Green-eyed Meg Foster is ideal as one of the soft talking yet sinister cult leaders, and a pre-Porkies Kim Cattrall also pops up, as does Robert Joy from the previous years ‘Atlantic City’ (’80). Director Ralph L. Thomas does a solid job in one of his few movie efforts, and Josh Freed co-scripted from his own book ‘Moonwebs’, a fascinating insight into modern day cults.

As well as the terrifying deprivation scenes there are plenty of other creepy moments, including David taking a stroll only to be followed by a group of cult members, and the cheerful sing-alongs that the new recruits are encouraged to take part in. The first two thirds of the movie work the best, if only because the brainwashing and rescue of David, are more engrossing than the later de-programming scenes. Still, it’s an accomplished and well-acted movie that deserves a new lease of life.

A horror film for our time, ‘Ticket to Heaven’ is an engrossing and important film, and one of the most realistic dramas about cults and the effects it can have on us.

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