The Sacrament Review

Posted: November 9, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

sacramentWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

It’s been a disappointing year for mainstream horror movies. While there are some titles I’m interested in checking out, most of what’s played in multiplexes has just looked uninteresting, uninspired, thoroughly panned by critics, or some combination of the three. However there have been some decent rumblings in the world of indie horror. Specifically, up and coming filmmaker Ti West’s film The Sacrament. While it hasn’t received the positive reception of West’s first two films, it had received enough positive buzz that I found myself interested.

The film opens with fictional footage from web series Vice, focusing on photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who’s sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) has recently joined a strange religious commune called Eden Parish. Said sister has invited her brother to visit, so two Vice journalists Sam and Jake (AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg) decide to go with him in order to gain some understanding about what this cult is like. Upon arriving, Patrick reunites with his sister, while Sam and Jake tour the community and interview some of the townsfolk. They find that Eden Parish is in many ways the paradise it’s been described as. But as they spend more time, they start to see signs that all may not be well, and they become more aware of Eden Parish’s seemingly well-meaning figure, Father (Gene Jones).

One thing I didn’t mention in my plot description is that this is a found footage film. The whole idea is, being reporters for Vice, Sam and Jake are videotaping all of their experiences. This is disappointing for a few reasons. First and foremost, the use of found footage as a technique for horror films is really played out at this point. After so many films have abused the tactic, it’s become so tiresome and boring, and the fact that The Sacrament follows the trend is a major reason I was somewhat skeptical going on. Beyond that, the film isn’t very consistent in its approach to the style. There seems to be some effort to make all the footage shot possible early on, but by the time builds to its climax it pretty much gives up. Most importantly though, the gimmick actively takes away from the film as there are moments where the momentum starts to build, before being stopped in its tracks by the characters talking to the camera. Ultimately, the found footage angle adds nothing to the film and could have easily been eliminated with some minor retooling.

It’s a shame about this fundamental flaw because outside of that, The Sacrament is a pretty solid horror film. The story is clearly based on the Jonestown massacre, which is obvious from the get go. On the one hand, it’s a little disappointing because you know where the film is probably going to go on the early on, but on the other hand, the Jonestown massacre is such a creepy and ominous thing that simply presenting it is an effective way of building tension and getting scares. Ti West manages to create some really creepy moments too. The first half is a fairly slow build, but there’s definitely a sense that something is off. The climax is also very effective and disturbing not necessarily for the violence, but for the psychological implications about what’s going on. There are some logical problems that effect this ending, like why wouldn’t the characters pick up one of the several weapons around them (or why won’t they drop the fucking camera) but it’s a very effective climax all the same.

The film also spots some pretty good performances. AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg are pretty likable as the two reporters investigating. It’s also worth noting that while the characters aren’t exactly complex, they do have some personality and feel they have lives outside of their function in the plot. I also really liked Amy Seimetz has one of the most indoctrinated members of Father’s cult who seems really honest and kind, but you can also see how someone like that would do horrible things. The highlight though is Gene Jones as Father. A character actor best known for the coin scene in No Country for Old Men, Jones is fantastic here and steals every scene he’s in. He as the aura of someone who is well intentioned and genuinely wants to do right by his family, but he has a sinister and menacing quality that really comes through. There’s an interview scene midway through the film with Father which is especially great.

I enjoyed The Sacrament. It’s an effective horror movie with a neat premises, good acting, a memorable villain, and some very strong horror scenes. It’s nothing exceptional, but it’s a solid piece of genre filmmaking that should give viewers seeking thrills and chills exactly what they want. It’s too bad they didn’t drop the found footage gimmick though. If they had, this could have been something really good.

B-

Comments
  1. vinnieh says:

    Sounds interesting,though I’m not the biggest fan of found footage movies.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. I’ve seen better Ti West movies, so consider me disappointed with this.

  3. robbinsrealm says:

    Good review!

    I agree with you about Gene Jones performance, he was excellent in his role as father.

    The film, however, is not found footage; two out of the three guys from Vice live at the end of the movie, and return to America. They were always going to show the viewing public what they recorded, that is what they do for a living.

    • PG Cooper says:

      Fair enough, but the style of film is the same as movies like Cloverfield and Blair Witch, so the label is still appropriate.

      Anyway, thanks for reading :)

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