Ticket to Heaven (1981)

“Bring in the money! Stay awake! Smash out Satan!”

Synopsis:
When a lonely, depressed young man (Nick Mancuso) is inducted into a Moonie-like cult, his friends (including Saul Rubinek as a struggling comic) and family members hatch a plot to rescue and deprogram him.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
This “real life horror film” earns my vote as the single best movie ever made about cults. Full of many “convincing, terrifying” scenes, the film effectively shows how new recruits are brainwashed — through deprivation of adequate sleep, nutritious food, and privacy — and end up devoting their lives to collecting money for a messianic leader. Fortunately, director Ralph Thomas injects this undeniably freaky material with plenty of levity — primarily in the form of Rubinek’s character, whose humorous presence assures us that things will (hopefully) turn out okay in the end.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Saul Rubinek as David’s heroic friend-to-the-rescue
  • Some truly freaky scenes — i.e., when David tries to take a walk by himself but is followed by a posse of “friendly” cult members
  • Meg Foster — with her “creepy green eyes” — as “Sister Ingrid”, a local cult leader
  • A powerfully realistic depiction of cult indoctrination and deprogramming

Must See?
Yes. This excellent Canadian sleeper deserves wider viewing.

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One Response to “Ticket to Heaven (1981)”

  1. First viewing. A must.

    This is one rather scary flick. The more the believers gathered together to cheerfully sing and shout joyfully, the more terrified I became. Very much a fingernails-on-blackboard effect. Then you throw soft-but-firm-talking Foster into the mix and it’s downright chilling.

    I was less prepared for the ‘deprogram’ section – which is about the last third of the film. One would think it’s much more complicated than what a film, with limited time, can show.

    I met a young man once who had been in the Unification Church but got out on his own. I’d known him awhile prior to his taking me into his confidence about it. Then I understood why he was generally so reserved. Even a few years after escaping, he had been so damaged by the experience that he was hesitant to trust; it was not easy for him to build friendships.

    Very powerful film that deserves a viewing.

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