Friday, October 3, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Sacrament (2013)

Inspired by the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, The Sacrament is a found footage film directed by Ti West. Patrick, a photographer, receives a letter from his sister Caroline, a recovering drug addict. She's invited him to visit Eden Parish, a utopian community founded by the religious leader known by the followers as "Father". Patrick's co-workers, Sam and Jake, suggest recording their visit to the Parish and turn it into a VICE-style documentary. However, the newcomers quickly realize Eden Parish isn't the idealistic paradise it claims to be.

I'm not the biggest fan of certain trends in modern horror cinema, with found footage being one that particularly annoys me. Don't get me wrong, there are some truly great found footage films out there. Unfortunately, the majority of found footage films end up being steaming piles of crap. While The Sacrament has a lot going for it, I personally feel the found footage style prevents it from reaching its true potential.

There are moments throughout the film where we see a scene from a certain vantage point, but there's no way the characters with the cameras could have taken  it. Also, based on certain events during the climax, its highly likely that a large amount of the footage was destroyed. If that's true, how are we seeing this now? While The Sacrament isn't the worst for these moments that could possibly break our suspension of disbelief,  it certainly doesn't help. 

Ignoring the faux-documentary style for just a moment, The Sacrament does present an interesting look at a religious cult and the individuals who belong to said cult. While everything seems to be perfect at first with everyone enjoying their new lives at Eden Perish, we quickly see that's not the case, with some people wishing to leave and even disagreeing with Father (this is especially noticeable during the film's climax). This is definitely a nice change of pace from the usual depiction of cults in horror movies. 

The Sacrament is also filled with wonderful performances. AJ Brown is very likable as Sam, come off as very well-meaning and truly wanting to help people, and Amy Seimetz really sells the zealous devote well. However, Gene Jones steals the show as Father, bringing the character to life. He successfully manages to balance the charisma of friendly Southern pastor with the menace of a crazed dictator. Believe me, that's no easy feat. 

Although The Sacrament has its problems, I would be remiss to label it a bad film. I believe the story and the performances tip the scales slightly in the film's favor (at least for me). If you enjoy found footage films, like interesting cult stories with good performances, and like Ti West's previous work, you'll probably like The Sacrament. If not, I'd suggest skipping this one.