The Sacrament

2014

The Sacrament

Critics Consensus

While it may be a bit too slow for some, The Sacrament offers enough tense atmosphere and intriguing ideas to satisfy discerning horror buffs.

64%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 69

47%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,666
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Movie Info

From acclaimed writer/director Ti West (The House of the Devil) and master of horror Eli Roth (Hostel), THE SACRAMENT follows two journalists as they set out to document their friend's journey to find his missing sister. They travel to "Eden Parish," a self-sustained utopia. At the center of this small, religious, socialist community is a mysterious leader known only as "Father." As their friend reunites with his sister, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems. What started as just another documentary shoot soon becomes a race to escape with their lives.(c) Magnolia

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Critic Reviews for The Sacrament

All Critics (69) | Top Critics (18)

  • West's found-footage structure doesn't always entirely make sense, but it's easy to forgive "The Sacrament" its flaws.

    Jun 26, 2014 | Rating: 3/4
  • The first half is a cautiously dread-inducing tour de force... The second half, however, when all hell breaks loose a little too quickly, is the disappointment.

    Jun 13, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Everything that happens is what you'd expect, and the choice of subject and the modifications West has made to the generic conventions don't add much to the suspense or thrills.

    Jun 12, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The Sacrament may not be a good movie, but it has enough virtues - enough gripping, well-put-together moments - that it made me reconsider my opinion of West as a director.

    Jun 6, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The tension fizzles as The Sacrament narrows into predictability, indulging every cliché of found-footage filmmaking and Jonestown-styled cult apocalypticism.

    Jun 6, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Gives enough unsettling atmosphere and upsetting gut-level shock that this viewer didn't mind too much all the stuff he wasn't getting ...

    Jun 6, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Sacrament

  • Jun 03, 2016
    A more sensitive man than I would probably have been offended enough to write The Sacrament off entirely. Personally, I'm not one for judging art from a moral point of view, I think it's easy to separate myself from watching films through that lens. But even I was a little ticked off by Ti West's microcosm retelling of the Jonestown Massacre. Not for the completely reasonable explanation of profiting from an actual tragedy, honestly that sort of thing never really phased me. No, what bothered me was that he pretended it wasn't inspired by the Peoples Temple. Is that something I should let negatively influence my opinion on the movie? I don't know, it seems pretty classless, but I don't think I should. Thankfully, the point's moot because I really didn't care for The Sacrament at all. My distain for modern situation with Found Footage Horror is (no pun intended) well documented. I'm just generally turned off by the whole thing. Here, Ti West manages to take that distain up to another level. Constantly throughout the course of The Sacrament, there are scenarios which make absolutely zero sense from a found-footage standpoint. Decisions are made to have a score in the more intense scenes, as well as shooting from more angles than they have cameras, or to keep the audio running at pace, while the cameras jump from place to place. The end result of this means that we don't have a Found Footage Horror (which typically would be bad enough) but instead we are treated to a regularly-filmed movie, except that the camera is poor quality, constantly shakes, and actors constantly look straight into the lens, removing any suspension of disbelief you could possibly hope to garner from The Sacrament. The people involved with the film have all been pretty hit and miss in the past. And even contained within The Sacrament, the actors themselves are hit and miss. Arguably more hit, but unfortunately the misses are at the times when it matters most. There's some cringe-worthy bad reactions in the climax of the movie, especially from the leads. The Sacrament is not enthralling, and I personally, was very disappointed, even separating myself completely from the Jonestown Issue. 23% -Gimly
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 30, 2015
    Ti West is usually a competent director but he shows in this sloppy and horribly edited movie that he doesn't seem to understand at all how the found footage device should be used, as he even forces the characters to carry a camera up and down in the most ludicrous of situations.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 22, 2014
    I was a bit on the fence with this film prior to watching it. Both of Ti West's feature films that I've reviewed here I've enjoyed greatly. His segment in the first VHS was quite bad but, other than that, I've found Ti West to be a beacon of hope in the horror genre, whether independent or not. But, when I first saw the first trailer for this film, I was struck by how much alike this film was to the actual Jonestown Massacre that this film very openly and shamelessly "borrows" from. It's to the point that I think part of Father's speech at the end of the film, where he says they have to go, was borrowed from an audio tape where Jim Jones, leader of the cult, was discussing with his followers about their suicide pact. I've heard the audio tape, but I cannot confirm or deny whether some of what Jim Jones said was used verbatim in this film, but I'm pretty sure they did. So with all that said, I was a bit hesitant before watching the film, because of how heavily it seemed to borrow from that very real tragedy. It makes the whole thing to me seem pointless when a documentary can probably tell me everything I need to know in a more compelling manner. There's nothing here, as good as the film actually is, that I wouldn't have gotten from watching a documentary. How people, who were lacking some sort of spiritual guidance in their lives, who were lonely, or were simply rejected by society because they were 'different', can be manipulated by a charismatic con man into selling all their worldly possessions, and give all the money they make to him, in order to build this "utopia", when it's practically all about control for these cult leaders. I don't doubt that some of these people start off with the best of intentions, perhaps Jim Jones didn't, but when you have that kind of power, where people worship the ground you walk, they do everything you ask without question, I think that kind of power can be intoxicating to a man. To the point that it completely corrupts him. That's an universal story that isn't exclusively told through the confines of a cult. For all intents and purposes, I don't even entirely disagree with the idea of these sort of hippie communities where you live with like-minded people and you live off the land. I'm not against that at all, if that makes you happy and you feel fulfilled, then by all means go right ahead. I have a problem with people being manipulated because they have a need of something that is clearly lacking from their lives. These is where these con men thrive, on the weak and lonely. This is a problem, because eventually all of these cult leaders push their own luck. Some of these people even, openly, start having sex with little kids because of the fact that no one would dare to question their leader. It's fucked up really and I think that film shows that mentality in a real and disturbing way. Personally I think the film could've done more to show the desperation of some of these people and how that drove them towards joining this community. You get some interviews with some of the members, but they don't really probe that deep into what it takes to truly leave everything you are and you know behind, in order to start over anew in this community. I wish the film would've taken a more in-depth look at the members of this community instead of keeping them at a distance. I realize why they did so, because it would've been a much longer film if they went in-depth and then went into the "horror". So I get that but, by and large, outside of Father's charismatic presence, you don't really see what drew people to this place. Other than the peace and calm, at first glance at least. To me horror always works best when you focus on something that is very real and this is no exception. The story of what actually happened at Jonestown is a horror story that Stephen King himself wished he came up with. The horror in this film comes from mankind itself, not a supernatural being, or a monster with a machete. The fact that it actually happened, and probably continues to happen on a much smaller scale, adds that little shudder that you get when you think of something creepy. So props for that. The film is well-written and well-paced, but I had a problem the first half of the film. The problem is that there is literally no hint of horror, none whatsoever. They just spend their day interviewing the members and later that night they interview Father and afterwards they have a party. At no moment in this first half, is there even a hint of horror. Then, as the party is going, Sam and Jake get a note from a little girl that said 'Please help us' and, like if a switch went off, the film went straight into the horror. They didn't slowly ease you into it, there was no tension built up, at least in my opinion. Knowing that something is gonna happen prior to watching the film because you've seen thousands of horror movies is not properly building up tension. At least that's my view of things. Of course there will always be something weird about countless people worshiping the word of one man as if he was god himself, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there's anything strange, or wildly illegal, going on under the surface. Because of that, it was a little jarring to see the film dive headfirst into the horror pool, if you will, as if it was a dare that was accepted immediately. But, regardless of that, I still thought that the last half of the film was exceptionally well-made and really disturbing. Again, the horrors of man are far more fucked up than the horrors of a supernatural being. Seeing all the people laid out on the field, much like the real life photos of people in Jonestown after being forced to commit suicide, is incredibly eerie, in how close it actually looks to the real photos, with the exception that 200 people died in the film whereas over 900 died for real. The acting isn't really important in this type of film, but it is more than solid. Gene Jones is excellent because he carries himself much like if he actually was a cult leader. You can see how he has this hold and control over people that is undeniable. He has a charisma about him, which is always the case with cult leaders, that means that people are drawn to him naturally. He's the type of person that, when he walks in a room, everyone notices. That's how the guy carries himself and props to the guy for doing a great job here. AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg are solid here, but they're there to "document" and that's just what they do. It's all about, it's really Father's show. With this long, drawn-out review out of the way, I really enjoyed this film. It adds another notch to the belt of Ti West's repertoire. But, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that this film "borrowed" so much from Jonestown is probably one of the reasons it gets the rating I gave it and not higher. I think that also affected the film critics' opinions as well, even if they might not say so. But I think this film is best enjoyed if you're someone with no knowledge of the Jonestown Massacre. It's still a very good movie, particularly if you enjoy horror films, but I can see it being enjoyed the most by people unfamiliar with Jonestown. I still certainly recommend it if you're a jaded horror fan, it might not fully restore your faith in the genre but it will get you started on that path.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2014
    This is a disturbing movie, which for fans of edgy filmmaking, makes it a very interesting movie. It is not really a horror film. It should really say "Based on a true story," the story being the Jonestown massacre of 1978. But its a fictional yarn loosely based on the real life events. It was intriguing enough to make me look Jonestown on Wikipedia (for the record, the actual massacre was way worse than what happens in this movie). There are a lot of Ti West fans out there, some of my favorite critics included. Unfortunately his style is a bit slow for my taste (and that is not a criticism of his work ... I am just not a fan of "slow-burn" movies. ADHD maybe?). It is another found footage "docudrama," but thankfully doesn't stick strictly to found footage rules. As such, there is no shaky camera and things happening off-screen. SPOILERS FOLLOW: If you want to get a sense of what it was like when the adults and children (including babies) were given cyanide-laced Kool Aid, you won't be disappointed. Not-a-fun-fact: this is where the "drinking the Kool Aid" phrase originated, which I found out for the first time reading up on the actual circumstance of the tragedy. The sense of foreboding and solid acting keeps this slow-burn very entertaining indeed.
    Mark B Super Reviewer

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