The Sacrament Reviews
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.
I'm not a huge fan of Ti West's previous work and I was not interested at all in this film, also because the poster is kinda boring; but I like the cast so I decided to see it. It boasts a very talented cast that was also involved in the movie You're Next, such as: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz. The Sacrament left me very surprised and satisfied. In my opinion this is the first film directed by Ti West that is not boring. I enjoyed it so much, it is found-footage done well. In my opinion, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers were two of the most boring horror films I've seen, of course they are good movies, but both of them have too many suspense and nothing interesting happens in 80% of their running time.
I've seen a lot of crappy found-footage movies this year and most of them sucked, such as: Alien Abduction, Delivery and Mr. Jones. Unlike them, The Sacrament is that rare found-footage film that succeeds. It has huge premise that is very well handled by this talented director. It's based on a true story called "The Jonestown Massacre" and that makes the film scarier. Of course it has some flaws especially in its second half, but the violence and the whole atmosphere of the film compensates for its flaws. I'm glad that I didn't know anything about this flick, I just pressed the play button without knowing anything about the plot and without watching the trailer, I recommend you to do the same.
The performances during the whole film were superb and believable; my favorite ones came from Gene Jones, AJ Bowen and the best one yet Amy Seimetz! There is actually a tense scene between two siblings, performed by Kentucker Audley and Amy Seimetz, it is one of my favorite scenes in the movie because it was shocking and realistic; the last 30 minutes are wickedly violent, without being too gory. I also like the production value, everything looks good and doesn't look cheap at all. One of the most notable things in The Sacrament is how mysterious and well developed were its characters. Also, "Father" performed by Gene Jones was annoying as hell but in a good way, he holds the greatest moments of the film.
It is thought-provoking at times, in its first half it makes you think about the way of how we live today's life with all those new technologies and stuff. I mean, it has some social commentary very well explained and all of this was quite interesting to me. I give it a 7/10 because it has some plot holes and the second half of the movie was kinda messy. Found-footage movies may be tiresome for some people but in this film this element is very well handled by West, and the presence of the camera is smart and has sense. The Sacrament is one of the best horror films of the year; it is not perfect at all but it shows the power of a leader and how far will he go. It takes to itself seriously and it is painful to watch at times. I really liked it, Ti West has a new fan. [B]
Also Joe Swanberg and AJ Bowen both knock it out of the park playing the journalists investigating Eden Parish.
As far as creepy dangerous cult movies go....the film Faults did it way better.
if you are a doing a documentary. you do. not. get. involved. plain and simple. the guy who wanted to help the little girl is off his element!
because he's a touchy pussy his friends are getting screwed. jackass.
The movie's setting is familiar territory as two journalists from Vice and a photographer are sent to find the photographer's sister, who has been located in a secluded, religious, commune somewhere in South Africa. Of course, things aren't what they seem in this apparently perfect little world and the cult-like activities begin to surface and take place. There is nothing wrong with this set up, using Vice as a plot device works well, and no doubt the comparisons to Jonestown arise throughout, but anything Ti West does in The Scarament adds nothing to the found-footage subgenre, nor to occultist themed films, especially when the aforementioned real life event and this movie are nearly identical.
In fact, The Sacrament's first half is wonderful as members of the commune are interviewed letting us know who exactly these people are. Night life may not be glitz and glam in Eden Parish, but live music, dancing, and good food are all shown to be present in the lives of its inhabitants. And the interview with the Father, although how easily the Vice journalist is undermined by such sweeping statements by the commune's leader makes it seem like an incompetent journalist was sent, Gene Jones is very believable as the film's cult leader. He is everything a cult leader would be, charismatic, well-respected, there is an air of dread that lingers around him and the misinformed and paranoid thoughts he has that spring about in later scenes establish him as the most interesting character in this movie. With a great central performance by Jones, The Sacrament could have been quite a film.
However, what could have been somehing great, so quickly devolves into an uninspired, meaningless, and empty exercise in horror cliches. After we learn that people are not as happy as the Father would like us to think they are--which was done well--Ti West tries to up the ante with gratuitous violence. Horror movies can be prone to gore, and Ti West isn't one to shy away from blood, but all the diligently documented death scenes, that are meant to shock and upset, feel pointless. Why does someone light themselves on fire? Is it for the audience's benefit: a spike of action amidst a slow-burn drama that actually didn't need such a visual? More importantly, why do they film themselves? Ti West runs horror movie tropes throughout the last act of his film and it compromises and diminishes all he sets up in the beginning. Not only his writing choices, but there are some odd choice edits in his film, particularly in the mass suicide scene. How there were that many angles and closeups during a scene where the only person with a camera was standing still and from afar astounds me.
It is true, though, that tension exists in this horror movie where tension is so void and underutilized in many horror flicks. There is a slowly spreading unease that permeates the film, but it's mostly due to Gene Jones' performance and present in first half where much of the horror aspects have not been introduced. The Sacrament isn't straight out horror, and could have been something more had it not really been an exercise in the horror genre and if the story was handled by a different director.
There is no insight in the movie, character motives are explained at surface level, and this addition to the horror genre adds and says nothing new. It is a very lazy film. None of what happens onscreen really has a point. Because of this, the Sacrament truly seemed to exist only as a slow-burner with catastrophic ends with outrageous deaths.
A lot of people are giving this movie grief for "borrowing" elements from the Jonestown massacre.... This movie is clearly a retelling of that very story... With the exception of the back story to the film makers and particular characters in this, this is almost exactly the story of Jonestown. It's supposed to be.. clearly. Up to the fact t hat journalists coming to cover the story was what caused the initial unrest, and the mother approaching the journalists and begging them to take her child: that's all fact.
I feel like if they had just made that more clear, a lot of people would have a softer opinion about this movie. It's cliche because it IS the story that started the cliche... It wasn't trying to be something else. So I went in to this movie expecting a dramatization of Jonestown, and that's exactly what I got. If you forgive the fact that the major plot elements are all based entirely in actual events, then the movie itself is really quite entertaining. I even see some reviewers saying it was "predictable". Well of course it fucking is! Who doesn't know the story of Jonestown? I feel like this is the closest we're going to get to getting a sense of what it was like to be in that town, and I thought the acting, cinematography and pacing was all well done and tense.