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Review: The Sacrament is an Unnerving Piece of Work

file_176249_1_shock-score-9the sacramentI know, I know. Who has two thumbs and is a glutton for punishment? This guy. I’ve been doing reviews for Shock for a little over a year now and in that time I’ve covered at least a dozen found footage flicks. And every time I’ve come away under impressed and wanting more. Yet time after time I gladly accept the opportunity to write the review. You know why?

Ti West’s The Sacrament is why.

Patrick is a cameraman for Vice magazine and along with his fellow workers Jake (Joe Swanberg, You’re Next) and Sam (AJ Bowen, The House of the Devil), he is flying to Eden Parish, a commune that has helped his sister rehabilitate from a drug addiction. When they get there, everything seems copacetic and cheerful, but things tense up when they finally sit down for an interview with the leader of the commune, The Father (Gene Jones.) After pulling the curtain back on the overly peaceful community, things spiral into a tense and violent display of raw human violence.

If you don’t follow Ti West, you need to. The man is on the forefront of good horror in the last half decade, directing The House of the Devil and a segment in V/H/S and the excellent The Innkeepers. In the formerly mentioned movies he created a '70s throwback, a creepy auteur slasher and a truly scary ghost story. Now he tackles found footage [editor's note: West will deny it's a found footage film.] and he handles it with finesse. He follows the same model of other sub-genre flicks, but cleverly explains why the camera never stops rolling, why there is such high sound quality and why all the people just happen to be perfectly lit the entire time. The tension created is high by never rushing the story and allowing the characters to flesh out and give the viewer a real feel of how the commune operates.

Once the shit hits the fan, it explodes. Things go crazy real fast and the movie veers into a territory handled in films such as The Last House on the Left and Red State, essentially a category that turns man into a monster. It wracks one's nerves and leaves you teetering between staring and looking away. Now, this wouldn’t work so well if it weren’t for the outstanding acting from Swanberg, Bowen, and the terrifyingly convincing Gene Jones. Bowen and Swanberg (horror stars as well) manage to hold on to your attention the whole movie by being not only likeable but also believable. So often in horror movies, people react in ways that are so backwards to reality, but these two manage to play it straight the whole movie. And when it comes to Gene Jones, he is one crazy charismatic sonuvabitch. There is a reason that his image is half of the movie poster.

While the movie does seem to drag, it seems necessary to completely set the mood. As a team, the cast and crew of The Sacrament create a found footage movie that never uses that label as a crutch. It’s secondary. First and foremost it is a horror movie that showcases the pure brutality of humankind. It’s a solid and effective flick and a shining example of why sometimes it’s worth digging through the trash to find the gold.

  • Daniel Heidt

    The Sacrament is an absolutely awful train wreck by one hit wonder Ti West.

    It’s hard for me to believe this review is an honest one. The Sacrament is that bad.

    Outstanding acting from AJ Bowen, are you kidding me? AJ Bowen is the herpes sore of horror, and Ti West is the new Ulli Lommel.

    • No Nonsense

      The fact that you would refer to the guy who made The Innkeepers in such negative light pretty much invalidates your opinion.
      Let me guess – you’re a big fan of the Saw franchise, aren’t you?

      • Daniel Heidt

        I don’t think it invalidates my opinion. I don’t think The Innkeepers was all that great. I do think Ti West scored an independent horror hit with The House of the Devil.

        I was actually excited to see more from Ti West after The House of the Devil, then Cabin Fever 2 came out. I think it would be hard to argue against calling Cabin Fever 2 a completely horrible movie.

        Maybe Ti West being the next Sam Raimi would make more sense?

        The original Saw(2004) was a game changer, in that it piqued the interest of people who may not normally watch horror films, thus making it financially successful.

        The sequels were pretty terrible, but in a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel kind of way. Pretty bad, but you watch them to see Freddy dice people up in weird themed dreams, and Saw for the torture kills.

        The Sacrament is a steaming pile of doo doo. It’s as if no one was even trying, and it was a cash grab scheme to trick people interested by the Jim Jones story. I watch all kinds of horror, and this film had zero heart.

        • No Nonsense

          The original Saw was derivative, predictable BS. They only got worse from there. I literally guessed what was happening 20 minutes in to the first, and was really disappointed to find out I was right.

          I also think the Freddy movies are among the most over rated garbage in history. He was never even slightly creepy – just goofy and way over the top. My tamest nightmares in real life would make Freddy pee himself.

          You’ve pretty much validated what I said with those comments – you like gory kills. That’s not what good horror is about, to me. In fact, it’s easily the least important factor.

          The Innkeepers is solidly among the greatest supernatural horror films ever made. The slow, subtle build to really intense freakiness is simply masterful. That movie is so good that it negates his flaws, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve watched it three times, and each time I catch something I didn’t before, and I even appreciate it a little more each time.

          I thought House of the Devil was meh. It was ok. Both movies are slow burners, but the payoff in The Innkeepers was soooo much better. Devil worship just isn’t scary or shocking to me, and the protagonist in HotD acts like a complete idiot.

          I actually didn’t know that he made Cabin Fever 2 – I skipped that one altogether because I thought it looked like a pointless B-grade sequel. Maybe I’ll get around to it eventually. He’s working with someone else’s setting and framework there, so if it sucks I can’t completely blame him.

          I did enjoy his bit in VHS.

          This post was…….too long. Apologies.

          • Daniel Heidt

            If you think The Innkeepers is among the greatest supernatural horror movies ever made, then you are either just too young to know or have a very loose grip on what good horror is.

            I’m not that into gory kills, I am into the quality of the content.

  • Str33tJustus

    This is easily Ti West’s best film to date. Was surprised he didn’t acknowledge Jonestown at all though, found that really weird and I don’t know how that’s allowed?

    As for his other work, House was decent, very predictable but a solid throwback. CF2 and Innkeepers were both horrible and lame, I don’t blame him for disowning Cabin, haha. His V/H/S segment was actually pretty good, i know a lot of people liked it but I preferred the succubus one.

  • MrX13

    Great another crappy movie from West!

    Cabin Fever 2 was a fun movie that I enjoyed but Innkeepers was boring as f**k, and Second Honeymoon (VHS) was just plain stupid. I hardly think that The Sacrament is a 9 on the ShockScore.

  • Stan Chinus

    How do they not get sued for remaking Jonestown Massacre?