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MOVIE REVIEW: The Sacrament (2013)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Sacrament (2013)

By Amy Lynes

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Director: Ti West

Starring: Kentucker Audley, Gene Jones, Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen and Amy Siemetz

Having enjoyed a few of Ti West’s other films and also being a huge A.J. Bowen fan, I was very eager to see The Sacrament. I have always been a bit fascinated by Jonestown Massacre of 1978 and I had heard that this film was very similar to what happened there, so I was more than ready to take this in.

The Sacrament starts off with freelance photographer Patrick discovering that his sister Caroline has joined some sort of religious cult in a remote country. With the help of fellow journalist Sam and camera man Jake (who just happens to work for a news show), he goes to Eden Parish under the guise of shooting a documentary about the self sustained community. In actuality, though, the three plan to locate Patrick's sister and persuade her to return home.

Soon after their arrival and a tour of this so-called utopia, they begin interviewing some of its inhabitants before meeting the leader, a man everyone refers to as Father. Father is a cross between a warm, polite southerner and a charismatic, smooth talking politician. Soon after meeting him and hearing his speech, they begin to sense that things aren't as bright and cheery as Father would have them all believe and they soon come to realize there is something much darker and maybe a little more sinister at work here. Father is up to something and it soon becomes evident that what started as just another documentary shoot has become a fight to escape with their lives.

Having become accustomed to the slow burn Ti West is known for with some of his other films, I was surprised at the (somewhat) faster pace of this film and the overall different feel that it had, particularly with the found footage approach.

Not long into it, however, I became profoundly disturbed, knowing what fate awaited the denizens of this society, and I found it increasingly harder to watch as it went on. I could almost FEEL the dread, panic and fear coming. It made me really uncomfortable, and by the time they start making the rounds with the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid in syringes and emptying them into the mouths of children, infants and the infirm, I damn near cried. I then wanted to cry again when Caroline injects her own brother with a cyanide filled syringe without so much as batting an eye. I was truly horrified, but I was unable to stop watching.

The scenes all hit their mark and the images are hard to shake. The film really stuck with me but then again, the story of what happened in Guyana always has. Maybe it is so disturbing to me because it so closely mirrored the events of 1978, or maybe it's the way all these people just so freely and willingly gave themselves (along with all their worldly belongings and assets) so completely to this man, without hesitation or question. Most of the residents of Eden Parish follow his words without even the slightest reservation, never thinking twice about his decisions, even when he tells them that the only way to hang on to their dignity is to die. That seems downright insane to me, and the fact that someone could have that kind of power over so many people honestly scares the shit out of me.

That being said, I am wondering why exactly The Sacrament has been labeled as horror, or if Ti West really thinks that is what he has given us with this film. I felt like I could have been watching a movie of the week or maybe a dramatization of real life events. The only thing that makes this a horror film, in my opinion, is the association to the events that happened in Jonestown in '78. Although, with his portrayal of Father, Gene Jones truly is this films saving grace. He was absolutely brilliant in this role, and the speech he gives right before he blows his own brains out really set me on edge. He might be full of charisma, but this is one seriously creepy dude.

This film definitely does what it sets out to do. It made me extremely uncomfortable and very emotional. It was grim and dark and hard to watch. It is not something I would care to add to my personal collection or ever choose to watch again. I just couldn't get past the fact that most of what is happening on screen really DID happen to people. Fictionalizing it just seems wrong to me somehow.

Rating: 6/10

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments