Cult escape drama The Aviary gets as lost as its characters

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The Aviary. // Courtesy Saban Films

The Aviary is a new indie drama-thriller that’s on video-on-demand as of today. In it, two women flee a cult, and wind up trapped in an unending New Mexico desert expanse, processing their grief while attempting to escape from their situations—both in the past few years of their brainwashing, and the quiet wasteland of off-the-grid.

Malin Akerman and Lorenza Izzo are the two actresses you’ll spend the entire movie with. Occasional flashes of their enigmatic cult leader (played by Chris Messina) will burst into their reality. Outside of that, there’s a single other actor who makes an appearance in the entire film.

This is a very lonely space for very lonely people.

The Aviary’s track from escaping the clutches of a powerful cult to processing degrees of guilt, shame, blame, and reality-disconnect is small in production but large in emotional scope.

While the filmmakers nod to adapting elements of this from the events surrounding the NVIXM cult which fell in recent years, the references to branding and men using women against other women are more important in the meta emotional exploration, and less so in the “ripped from the headlines” approach to exploring these interpersonal dynamics.

The Aviary is peak COVID-production film. Two actresses in the middle of nowhere doing essentially small theater work, rare appearances by a bigger name, and little else. Your mileage may vary on the sparse features that have been rolling out since lockdown first began, and this film doesn’t pretend it is anything more.

If you meet it on its terms, it’s an interesting deep dive into group trauma. If you expect a feature that brings a lot of new ideas to the conversation, you’ll be disappointed.

This is the feature directorial debut from Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite who, as writers and creators, have collaborated with Blumhouse and have upcoming projects and pilots in development with Universal Television, The CW, and CBS.

We have some great appreciation for their approach to storytelling when they have almost nothing to work with, besides two charismatic leads. We’ll be thrilled to see what they can do when the shackles of COVID limitations are removed.


The Aviary is now available to rent or buy on most VOD streaming services.

Categories: Movies