Billed as a cross between Flatliners and Ghost, Colm O’Murchu’s debut feature Tabernacle 101 is more like Flatliners climb Jacob’s Ladder to save The Matrix. And if that sounds like a strange mix, you’re right. Tabernacle 101 is a strange film that mixes religion, horror and computer viruses into an oddly entertaining stew. If you can get past the first few minutes.
Frank Bonetti (David Hov, Remember Redfield) is a professional atheist. He has a YouTube channel with millions of viewers where he debunks religion, superstition, and anything else spiritual. Overbearing, obnoxious and full of himself he’s the secular equivalent of a TV preacher. His girlfriend Sarah (Elly Hiraani Clapin, Bad Karma) is a scientist who’s managed to bring a guinea pig back from the dead. Frank sees this as a chance to make himself even more famous.
He has himself killed by lethal injection and brought back using her research during a livecast. He intends it as the ultimate proof that there is no afterlife. Instead, he opens a portal to hell. Now he must team up with Meredith (Mikaela Franco) a medium who was frequently a target on his show. He needs to learn how to use the powers he came back with and quickly. Because the demons are going to destroy the world using a computer virus from the Dark Web.
Now I know that starting the main character off as a less than likable person is a common way to help give the story an arc. However, Tabernacle 101 takes it to an extreme. Frank is such an asshole that I had to force myself to stay with the film at the beginning. He’s the stereotypical atheist boogeyman religious figures use to demonize nonbelievers. I was almost expecting this to turn out to be a piece of Christian horror.
Thankfully once the aftereffects of the experiment kick in, Frank becomes a much more tolerable person. And while Tabernacle 101 does delve into religion and some New Age spirituality it doesn’t get preachy, it just uses them as plot devices. Granted the whole computer virus subplot is a bit out of left field but it gives the filmmakers an excuse to bring out that old green Matrix screensaver we all had back in the day. Bring it out and make it a major plot point no less.
And like the screensaver most of the effects have a simple, old school feel to them. Bolts of energy shoot from people’s hands. There’s a mysterious glowing orb, demons that look almost human, a glowing inverted cross in someone’s chest. All done nicely and within the budget rather than trying to be overwhelming and falling short.
Tabernacle 101 is the kind of film you would have found in a corner of a video store back in the day. And you would have saved it for bargain night and had a much better time than you expected.
Tabernacle 101 is available to stream and on DVD/Blu Ray from Indie Rights. You can find updates on its website and Facebook page.