TIFF 2013 Review: The Sacrament
This Vanguard seclection by Ti West is too earnest, too focused to be great. A simple premise is drawn out to the furthest possible point in a film that may see you waiting in disappointment for something to make you jump, gasp, or recoil.
When Patrick’s estranged sister sends a letter saying she is alive and well living in commune in the middle of no one, the photographer teams up with a pair of journalists from Vice Magazine to go investigate. One of them has a camera, and so of course everything we see comes through the lens in this, yet another entry in the found-footage category.
For the most part the conceit holds up, but it does get silly at times. The worst part is that there simply isn’t a payoff. The commune is a wide expanse in a sun-soaked field, with wooden cabins and lots of people smiling, singing, and enjoying life. By that point, our three travelers have either forgotten or accepted that armed guards patrolled the outskirts of this hidden community.
It takes some time for the drama to erupt – we all know what’s coming. There are familiar characters too: the impressionable young woman, the watchful elder, the gross, gluttonous leader, and even a few people too scared to talk.
The ending is bloody though predictable, with West more interested in telling a full, character-driven, atmospheric story rather than one that is surprising or shocking. The finale is fine, but not worth the 80 minutes prior.