Sacrament, The (2013)
Directed by Ti West
Famously known for his passion for slow-burn horror indies like The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, director Ti West has once again brought another solid slow-burning tale to the festival circuit, but unlike with his previous efforts, this time for The Sacrament he has steered away from a supernatural premise and has focused on a real-life horror scenario that equally sends chills down one’s spine in an unnerving depiction of religious fanaticism.
Implementing the cinéma vérité style of filmmaking, The Sacrament reunites You’re Next co-stars AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg as Sam and Jake, who happen to be passionate reporters for a magazine that specializes in posting news not typically promoted in the media. When the duo meet Patrick (Audley), a fashion photographer who recently received a peculiar letter from his sister, Caroline (Seimetz), that she is staying at an unknown community outside of North America, he then invites the reporters to travel to the commune in hopes of acquiring a great story for the magazine.
As soon as the trio arrive, men armed with guns who protect the community immediately confront them. After the false alarm, Sam and Jake are justifiably unconvinced that this dystopian society is not just a creative way of scamming desperate people of their life savings by the leader of the commune simply known as “Father” (played by No Country for Old Men‘s Gene Jones).
However, after being there and experiencing the community’s jovial lifestyle firsthand, the reporters take back their initial doubts of the commune—that is, until they discover Father is not at all who he seems, and it quickly becomes painfully apparent that the term “drinking the Kool-Aid” is not just an expression with this group of people.
Many fans might be initially disappointed that West’s latest is technically not a horror film by today’s standards, but it is a disturbing portrayal of cult brainwashing that will make you far more discomforted and disturbed than anything you’ve seen in recent shock-horror films.
Like in all of his projects, West flawlessly establishes characterization among the leads, and even the supporting characters deliver consistently strong, naturalistic performances; it’s safe to say that The Sacrament is West’s most emotion-invoking film to date.
Having said that, the film does suffer slightly from utilizing the done to death POV/handheld effect, which comes off as contrived instead of adding the genuine element of dread that would have definitely heightened the sense of trepidation in the film.
The Sacrament may not be the petrifying experience that filmgoers may be expecting; yet, it is certainly a gripping film that will make you thankful for the everyday chaos that affects our lives.
3 1/2 out of 5