Review: The Sacrament
Found footage films are a dime a dozen now, making the quality of them less inspired and more redundant. The Sacrament is another film that we can add to the collection, about journalists travelling to Eden Parish to meet their friend’s sister, who has given up her American life to be a part of the commune that resides there.
Ti West’s film is a mockumentary, as our main characters Jake and Sam are recording their visit and interviewing the people who live in Eden Parish. The film is 95 minutes long, and the first hour just contains these interviews, skeptical commentary from Jake and Sam, and an interview with Father, the leader of the commune, which goes awry when Father turns all of his questions on these two “outsiders”. Although it maintains a somewhat authentic feel, The Sacrament is mostly boring for the majority of its length, as the people in this parish are not particularly interesting or scary. Even Father, the old man who is much more evil than he appears, does not carry the creepy quality to enough of an extent to make this movie feel eerie or scary. Although the film is roughly based on some true events, and is extremely reminiscent of the infamous Jonestown massacre, which involved a religious cult committing mass suicide by drinking poisonous Kool Aid, killing 918 people, it still feels mostly bland. A topic like this should be much more of a scary film experience, and as a horror film, The Sacrament does not shake up the audience like it needs to for a truly haunting effect.
The last half hour of the film is where anything worthy of mention happens, and there are some stand-out scenes that will stay with the viewer once the film has ended. This can be attributed mainly to the performance by Amy Seimetz, who plays Caroline, the sister who draws this group of friends to Eden Parish, and who seems to be one of the most brainwashed members of the commune. It is during the end of the film where everything that is even close to being scary or affecting happens, but even still it feels all a little bit too silly and is not directed with the utmost emphasis on what exactly is going on.
The Sacrament deals with some of the scariest real life subject matter out there, and because of that, it is unfortunate to say that the film feels a little bit phony. It may be that we get too much unnecessary footage of the boring main characters who are viewing the commune from the outside in, as opposed to getting to know the members of the commune, who are clearly the more interesting people in the movie. Although the point of the film is to examine the perspective of these journalists, it is a less interesting way to go about a story that could have been incredibly eerie and haunting. The affects that a cult leader has on a group of people and the way in which they sacrifice everything and submit to the command of one person, who could convince them to do nearly anything, and the religious or spiritual undertones of this, made for a lot of interesting material that a more competent film could have made. Instead, The Sacrament just feels like another found footage film that focuses more on the handheld camera style of filming and the false authenticity of that, then the story it has right in front of it. It has a couple of decent moments, but that does not make enough to invest an hour and half of your time.