Ticket to Heaven (1981)

Ticket to Heaven (1981)

Taglines: In 1979, David joined a cult.

David is a young man seduced by a religious cult that uses starvation, exhaustion, and brainwashing to mold recruits into money hustling disciples of a messiah-like leader. Chronicles David’s chilling transformation into a gaunt, mindless shadow of his former self…and his ultimate salvation when friends and family launch a plan to kidnap and deprogram him.

Ticket to Heaven is a 1981 Canadian drama film about the recruiting of a man into a group portrayed to be a cult, and his life in the group until forcibly extracted by his family and friends. The film was based on the nonfiction book Moon Webs by Josh Freed and was directed by Ralph L. Thomas. It was released on DVD on June 20, 1998.

About the Story

David Kappel (Nick Mancuso), a twentysomething school teacher, visits a training camp for a religious cult. At the camp everything is done in groups, along with much singing. There is also a low-calorie, low-protein diet; sleep deprivation; constant positive reinforcement; and chanting of slogans.

All of the elements of the camp begin to have an effect on David mentally. He graduates and is put to work as a volunteer laborer for the cult. In an especially powerful scene he vomits up a hamburger and malted which he had just eaten in violation of cult dietary guidelines.

David sets out to work, led by cult leader Patrick (Robert Joy). David is shocked when Patrick lies to a customer but Patrick explains that they are only “using Satan’s methods to do God’s work”, and that it is okay because “it’s only Satan’s money we’re taking.”

David’s best friend Larry (Saul Rubinek) and his parents, Morely (Paul Soles) and Esther (Marcia Diamond), are concerned about him. Larry visits the cult’s camp and almost falls under their influence. He escapes and returns home.

Ticket to Heaven Movie Poster (1981)

Ticket to Heaven (1981)

Directed by: Ralph L. Thomas
Starring: Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Meg Foster, Kim Cattrall, R.H. Thomson, Jennifer Dale, Guy Boyd, Dixie Seatle, Harvey Atkin
Screenplay by: Anne Cameron
Production Design by: Susan Longmire
Cinematography by: Richard Leiterman
Film Editing by: Ron Wisman
Costume Design by: Linda Kemp
Set Decoration by: David Jaquest
Art Direction by: Jill Scott
Music by: Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon
Distributed by: United Artists
Release Date: October 9, 1981