Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Movie Review: "The Sacrament" (2013)

Director: Ti West
Year: 2013
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

When a man receives a letter from his estranged sister, he invites a documentary team to do exposé on the commune his sister has joined because he thinks he may need to rescue her. Once they get there, it isn't at all how they imagined, and not everything is as it seems.

Gene Jones The Sacrament 2013
"Society has turned its back on these people, but I never will." (Image Source)
Horror movies that claim they are 'based on true events' are either "true" in the loosest sense possible, or they aren't at all. Though "The Sacrament" doesn't claim to be based on an actual situation, it absolutely is. It sticks so incredibly close to a true historical occurrence that it may be a detriment to the film itself. This movie is written and directed by Ti West, who has directed movies like "The House of the Devil" and "The Innkeepers." The story is about a fashion photographer named Patrick (Kentucker Audley), who receives a letter from his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), a recovering drug addict now living in a religious commune. The letter asks him to come to visit her in her new community. Patrick thinks he may have to rescue his sister, so he asks his friends Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg), who both work at VICE, to come and document the whole ordeal.
Gene Jones AJ Bowen Joe Swanberg The Sacrament 2013
"Everyone thinks this is the best place they've ever been." (Image Source)
Ti West takes the mockumentary/found-footage approach to "The Sacrament," which focuses on a cult living in a commune in some unnamed country. We were intrigued by the summary of this film, but we didn't know what it was about. Much of the purpose of the found-footage genre of filmmaking is to make the movie seem more real. We know that this story could happen...because it actually did happen. Not at a fictional place called Eden Parish, however, but at a real place known as Jonestown.  Maybe you've heard of was only "the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001." No biggie. As soon as the movie started, we knew exactly what was going on. Our main thought while watching it was, if a filmmaker is going to make a story so closely resembling Jonestown, why not just make a movie about Jonestown instead of a fictional cult and trying to pass it off as something original? Jonestown is probably the most well-known cult and mass suicide in history. It has been widely covered in documentaries and television specials, news stories, etc. The changes to the story are so minute that there's really no reason why Ti West shouldn't have credited *someone* for making this since it is almost entirely based on a true story! It's actually sort of infuriating. Since we are so familiar with the story of Jonestown, we know that it mirrors the events almost beat-for-beat, meaning we see everything coming from a mile away. The few additional elements only serve to included a little extra horror to the mix in the hopes that the slow burn pays off when the shit hits the fan. That being said, despite knowing how it concludes, this tale is so endlessly fascinating and creepy and awful that it's hard not to be interested and captivated by it.
Gene Jones AJ Bowen Joe Swanberg The Sacrament 2013
"Father had a vision, and he was of course right. We've built heave here on earth." (Image Source)
For those who know nothing about Jonestown, you'll be better off watching a documentary about those events than you would be watching "The Sacrament," which kind of feels like a dirty trick of a found-footage film.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.1/10
RT Rating: 62%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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