Ticket to Heaven

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Ticket to Heaven
Ticket to Heaven.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Ralph L. Thomas
Written by Josh Freed
Anne Cameron
Ralph L. Thomas
Produced byAlan Simmonds
Vivienne Leebosh
Ronald Cohen
Cinematography Richard Leiterman
Edited byRon Wisman
Music by Micky Erbe
Maribeth Solomon
Distributed byMiracle Films Ltd (Canada), United Artists (US and other nations)
Release dates
Running time
109 minutes
Budget C$4,500,000 [1]

Ticket to Heaven is a 1981 Canadian drama film directed by Ralph L. Thomas and starring Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Meg Foster, Kim Cattrall, and R.H. Thomson. The plot concerns the recruiting of a man into a group portrayed to be a religious cult, and his life in the group until forcibly extracted by his family and friends. The film is based on the nonfiction book Moonwebs by Josh Freed.



Following a relationship breakup, David Kappel (Nick Mancuso), a twentysomething school teacher, visits what turns out to be a training camp for a religious cult. At the camp, everything is done in groups, including chanting and singing. There is also a low-calorie, low-protein diet; sleep deprivation; and constant positive reinforcement. [2]

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 milkshake which he had just eaten in violation of cult dietary guidelines. [3]

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." [3]

David's best friend Larry (Saul Rubinek) and his parents, Morley (Paul Soles) and Esther (Marcia Diamond), are concerned about him. Larry visits the cult's camp and almost falls under their influence as well. He escapes with the help of Eric (Guy Boyd), a fellow camp prospect who befriends him. The latter reveals he has been visiting various cult camps, trying to find his sister. Once free, Larry returns home.

David's parents, Larry, Eric, and some other friends forcibly kidnap David, bringing him to a private home in the area and enlisting the aid of a cult deprogrammer, Linc Strunk (R.H. Thomson), to help him regain his normal mindset. After some struggle, David slowly comes to recognize the cult's dishonesty and mistreatment. He is confused and when he asks about "true love", he is told that he only needs to look around him: at Larry, his brother Danny, Sarah, his parents, and everything they've done for him, and still are enduring for him. Crying, he embraces them all. Everyone reunites and embraces outside the deprogramming house, while several cult members watch from a distance.



Critical response

The film was selected as one of the top ten films of 1981 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.[ citation needed ] Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars, but added that the ending was less interesting and powerful than the earlier cult indoctrination scenes. [2] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "an absorbing, frightening, entirely believable movie, which is particularly amazing in view of its subject matter." [3]

On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 78%, based on reviews from 9 critics. [4]


Ticket to Heaven was nominated for fourteen 1982 Genie Awards, and won four :

1982 Genie Awards
Best Motion Picture Ronald I. Cohen, Vivienne LeeboshWon
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Nick Mancuso Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Saul Rubinek Won
Best Achievement in Film Editing Ron WismanWon
Best Achievement in Direction Ralph L. ThomasNominated
Best Achievement in Music Score Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon Nominated
Best Achievement in Overall Sound Marc Chiasson, Bruce Carwardine, Glen GauthierNominated
Best Achievement in Sound Editing Marc Chiasson, Glen Gauthier, Don White, David Appleby, Bruce CarwardineNominated
Best Performance by a Foreign Actor Guy Boyd Nominated
Best Performance by a Foreign Actress Meg Foster Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role R.H. Thomson Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Kim Cattrall Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Dixie Seatle Nominated
Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium Ralph L. Thomas, Anne Cameron Nominated

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  1. Staff. "Box office business for Ticket to Heaven (1981)". IMDb . Retrieved 2007-11-23.
  2. 1 2 Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1981). "Ticket to Heaven, Review". Chicago Sun-Times . rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2007-11-23.
  3. 1 2 3 Maslin, Janet (November 13, 1981). "'Ticket to Heaven,' A Sleeper About Cults". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-12-12.
  4. "Ticket to Heaven". Rotten Tomatoes .