Serpents And Sinners In Trailer For Mitchell Altieri's HOLY GHOST PEOPLE

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and the like had it right. When you take people somewhere off the beaten track and stoke a religious fervor in them, strange things can happen. You don't even need to go off the beaten track to find it, in many cases. Back in my college days - when I was completing a degree in religious studies - Toronto was caught up in an extreme charismatic movement with services at certain well known and well populated churches filled every night of the week with scores of people writhing on the floor, barking like dogs, speaking in non-existent languages etc.

Though my own church background was far different I attended a few times to witness these things first hand - a good friend intended to do an anthropological study of those who experienced 'miracles' at the epicenter church of the movement as his master's thesis at one point - and left feeling oddly conflicted. Because while it may very well be misguided and may very well be fueled by heightened emotion over all else, I have no doubt at all that for at least the vast majority of those involved this is no act. Whatever you may think the origins are, these people are experiencing something, and it's something both powerful and outside of their control.

It's a fascinating phenomenon and one that director Mitchell Altieri is tapping into with his Holy Ghost People, a thriller set within one of the oldest and most American of all the charismatic movements: The snake-handling churches of the south.

In this psychological thriller, nineteen-year old Charlotte enlists the help of alcoholic ex-Marine Wayne to find her estranged sister who has gone missing deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Their search leads them to the Church of One Accord and an enigmatic snake-handling preacher named Brother Billy, who's devoted congregation of outcasts knowingly risk injury or death seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost. What Wayne and Charlotte uncover during their time on the mountain - about themselves and the nature of faith - will shake them to their core, as the mystery of Charlotte's sister and her fate unravels...
We were proud to premiere the first stills for Holy Ghost People and now the first trailer has arrived as well. Check it below.

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  • Mr. Cavin

    I think I'd amend that to "the snake-handling churches of the southern Appalachian mountains." This apostolic pentecostal stuff is contained in a very limited, mountainous area compared to the US "south", which is primarily Baptist. Though I guess it's possible this specificity isn't all that necessary just to set up a movie trailer. Looks pretty good, by the way. Maybe the middle chapter in a Winter's Bone / Martha Marcy May Marlene movie night?

  • There are snake handlers in the Florida panhandle, too, aren't there? Pretty sure ...

  • Mr. Cavin

    I did find a church in southern Florida when I looked (and also one in Alabama). Charismatic revivalism certainly spread syncretic versions of snake handling around married to other evangelical forms. And god knows what all they get up to in the Everglades, man. They certainly have the snakes for it down there. I was just cautioning, on the chance it was needed, that this isn't really a "southern" thing--it's primarily a "hillbilly" thing. These are pretty distinct cultures in the US.

    Also I just like to talk.

  • Yeah, there are strains of Baptist churches in Florida that are way out on the charismatic end of the spectrum and just wildly, wildly different from what would normally be considered standard Baptist behavior (says the guy who grew up in a really conservative evangelical Baptist church). There's some wild stuff down there. If you're familiar with a musician named Jim White, see if you can find the story that accompanied the release of his first record, The Mysterious Tale Of How I Shouted Wrong Eyed Jesus. Crazy stuff ... I had the chance to interview him once and he swears it's all true, though it's two events jammed into one. If I remember right he'd spent some time with snake handlers, too.

  • kidlazarus

    Todd, how is the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus? I'm not familiar with Jim White - the extent of my alt-country knowledge begins and ends with David Eugene Edwards (16 horsepower/Wovenhand). I remember seeing the Handsome Family open for 16 horsepower but it didn't stick with me.

  • Oh ... and not Denver, but Johnny Dowd's good stuff is AWESOME.

  • Haven't seen the doc but I believe David is in it. If you're into that Denver scene you should also check out Slim Cessna's Auto Club (fronted by one of David's high school best friends), Devotchka (rose up towards the end of that Denver explosion), The Denver Gentlemen (the band that later splintered into 16HP, the Auto Club, etc), and The Czars (who are different from the others but rose at the same time ... front man John Grant has since gone solo). I have a moderate obsession with the Denver scene of that era.

  • Mr. Cavin

    I'm not familiar, but I'll definitely look him up. Thanks.

  • kidlazarus

    or match it up with Peter Adair's documentary Holy Ghost People: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v....

    Marjoe and Wise Blood would work, too.

    Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain is an interesting investigative report on an Appalachian snake-handling preacher accused of the attempted murder of his wife.

  • Mr. Cavin

    Cool! Thanks for all the neat leads.

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