Picks and Pans Review: Split Image

updated 11/01/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/01/1982 01:00AM

Human drama fairly bursts from stories about middle-class kids caught up in religious cults. That's the trouble. Movies on the subject often let the headlines do the work for them. The result here, as in the Canadian film Ticket to Heaven, is affecting but skin-deep. College freshman Michael (The Great Santini) O'Keefe has looks, athletic talent and rich parents (sharply etched by Elizabeth Ashley and Brian Dennehy) who ignore him. When Karen (Raiders of the Lost Ark) Allen picks him up, the weekend in the country she promises turns out to be more than he bargained for. Allen is a member of Homeland, a celibate youth cult run by Peter Fonda. After a few days O'Keefe is hooked. How? The film never reveals. Though O'Keefe (himself a member of a religious cult while going to high school in New York's Westchester County) is convincing, he can't fill gaps left by director Ted (North Dallas Forty) Kotchef f and three screenwriters. James (The Onion Field) Woods, as a deprogrammer hired by O'Keefe's parents, saves the movie. He is an odious marvel, using every cheap trick to get his man and his fee. Before he's buried in scare-show tactics, Woods suggests the power of the movie that might have been. (R)

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