After a rough divorce that has left him without any money, foremost cult expert Ansel (Leland Orser) is on tour giving seminars about such brainwashing. Approached by Claire’s distraught parents, he agrees to help them, and their daughter’s de-programming seems to run smoothly enough. However, the more Ansel spends with Claire the more he starts to doubt she’s actually brainwashed. Maybe there is something to ‘Faults’ after all?

Simply put, Faults is an experience. It grips and never lets go. Much like The Wicker Man, this is a film that creeps under your skin, just when you think you know where it is going, another subtly emerges from the characters, and the dimensions of the film change, and the unsettling atmosphere builds to the point of pulsing fever. What is most surprising about Faults is the wry humour that runs through the film; in the first half, it almost plays like a black comedy, as the increasingly exasperated and desperate Ansel struggles to keep everything together. In particular, the opening sequence, as he tries his best to con a hotel restaurant out of a free meal, pushing further and further as the manager desperately tries to get him to leave. It is hilarious, but also shows the creeping sense of discomfort that Riley slowly increases as the film progresses, like a kettle boiling. Indeed, Riley Stearns’ direction is superb in its subtlety. It is poised, a display of absolute visual control, allowing his stars to shine while simultaneously suggesting the subtle changes in the relationships, the shifting nature of Orser’s world, reaching an absolute peak in one devastating sequence that seems to exist between reality and the subconscious, one that absolutely shakes the foundations of the film.

Faults is an intense character study, dominated by two figures, Leland Orser and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. As such the success of the film rests as much on them as the director, Riley Stearns, and they don’t just deliver…they provide stunning, career best performances, in particularly Orser. In playing the deeply troubled Ansel, Orser emerges with a performance of such emotion intensity and thoughtfulness; it is if he is channeling the very desolation of his soul. He is a wound laid bare; the pain evident in each movement of his face and the subtle gestures of his body. It is a performance that creates tremendous pathos, and also as the film twists, discomfort as he unravels. Equally as remarkable for her control and patience is Winstead in the role of the cult’s victim, who Ansel attempts to ‘deprogram.’ She is the image of vulnerability and fragility, someone who has been manipulated and is struggling to break free. And yet, beneath is a cold determination, and a suggestion of strength, a thread that becomes increasingly complex as Ansel’s issues come to the fore. Together, they are a dynamic partnership, and absolutely unmissable. They dominate the screen, and deliver two of the most sensational performances of the year.

Faults is an exceptional horror film. It isn’t about monsters, ghosts or serial killers. It’s about a very real, very perverse horror – manipulation and control. It’s about the fragility of the human spirit and those who prey upon this weakness. As the last image burns onto the screen, and cuts to white, it will haunt for far longer. It will own you.



Frightfest Review: Faults
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: