May 8, 2014

VOD Review: The Sacrament (2014)
Please pardon the crude reference, because we always do our best to avoid being too blatantly vulgar, but why does it seem like everyone on Twitter is sucking this movie's dick, and doing so extremely hard?

We liked the movie (I liked it a lot despite its flaws), and we love Ti West, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg and Amy Seimetz, but good lord if you believe the Tweets sent out by some actors and filmmakers on Twitter, this movie is the second coming.

The second coming of what, we don't know, but the second coming of something, none the less.

We didn't want to start this review on a seemingly negative note like that, but good lord people, lets ease up a bit on the hyperbole when it comes to praising a good film, shall we?

And before I get taken to task for these comments, let me say that I understand reactions to art can be subjective, and that some people do think certain films are brilliant and perfect. I also get that Indie talent likes to support one another, as well they should, because it's a hard racket, but all I'm asking for is that we all temper our emotional responses with a bit of realism.

This film is not perfect. That's all I'm saying.

*There are some Ending-Specific Spoilers in The Bad section below, so skip that one if you want to be untainted by them.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Jonestown Massacre, The Sacrament is basically Ti West's retelling of that horrific, true-life story. Do yourself a favor and click the WIKI link and read up on the story. It's truly harrowing stuff. *Don't read it until after you've seen the movie though, because it will just spoil things for you.

Patrick and two of his friends head off to a foreign country to visit Eden Parish; the idyllic cult family community where his sister Caroline now resides. Run by the enigmatic Father, Caroline claims that Eden Parish is truly Heaven on Earth, and that she's never been happier in her life. She's also a recovering drug addict, so you can't really take anything that she says at face value.

Drugs, Religion... it's all self-medication, really. 
Patrick's Posse decide to record their trip Documentary style, apparently as some sort of audition for the guerrilla news show Vice, or something. They interview Eden Parish residents, who all seem to be nice, normal folk who have found their true calling in life. Everyone seems to be happy and well in Crazytown, so maybe Caroline was right about the place being a tangible nirvana. Then they sit down for a buzz-killing interview with Father himself...

Nice headband, bro.
From here on out, things go  from creepy to horrifying for our gang of cub reporters. Will anyone survive? Will Patrick get Caroline to come back to reality and leave the creepy cult? Will Kool-Aid be served at Father's big shindig? What the hell is with Joe Swanberg's headband? Far be it from us to spoil things for you, but suffice it to say that the story of Jim Jones and his Jonestown paradise didn't end well for most of the people involved.

"Drink the Kool-Aid while it's nice and poison-ey, so we can go up Heaven's Chimney together, children. Terra-da-loo!"
As Ti West movies go, we're still partial to House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. I'll personally never understand how people can watch either of those films and not get swept up in their mood and aesthetic. Personal taste aside, West just really nailed what he was going for with both movies, and they both felt unique in their own way.

As much as we like those two flicks, we have to admit that The Sacrament had us all sorts of tense and on edge in ways that neither of those gems never managed to. The whole time you know that something isn't right, and that things are going to go really bad for our protagonists at any minute, and the anticipation of it all was really intense for us at times. As "Found Footage" flicks go, this one was pretty believable, and it left behind most of the FF tropes that usually drive us nuts. I personally don't think it's Ti West's best film, but I certainly wouldn't argue the point with anyone who does, because it definitely deserves to be in that discussion.

The Sacrament is not without flaws, but on the whole it works, and it left us feeling satisfied.
"So you're not actually anyone's Father then?"
Gene Jones was fantastic in the role of Father. From what IMDB says, the guy has only been acting since 2004, and that's truly a shame as he was so natural and effective here, we can't help but wonder what great roles he could have given us had he started his career a bit earlier on in life. Gene Jones is responsible for the best scene in the movie, and he honestly made the experience of The Sacrament better by his presence alone.

Amy Seimetz gave a pretty standout performance in this one as well, as she truly seemed like a "not quite right" cult member. Even though his character was an idiot, we've always been fans of AJ Bowen. He and Joe Swanberg are in their usual form here, so if you're fans of them, you know exactly what to expect. Nice job all around by the onscreen talent.

Joe Sawnberg auditioning for the role of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.
AJ Bowen's character was an idiot. He and his friends are in the middle of a secluded cult encampment (presumably somewhere near Guyana), and instead of being respectful and treading lightly, he ruffles as many feathers as he can. When Father tells him, in an ominous tone "You wouldn't want to walk into the wrong place around here," he responds with "Why?" in a challenging tone. Why not just say "I promise you sir, we will not be doing that" and be done with it? Then, and this one really takes the moron cake, he asks "Why? Is there something you don't want us to see?" All of this comes after someone hands him a note saying 'please help us' so he knows something isn't right. Shut your stupid fucking mouth, check your privilege, and go back to your cabin.

After being chased by guys with guns who want to kill him, why didn't Joe Swanberg grab a gun? I mean, he just watched someone get shot in the head, and not only does he go traipsing around the camp in the open (while the gunman is still roaming around, searching for people to shoot), but he calls out for someone at the top of his lungs... all while failing to pick up the gun laying right there on the ground. Same thing goes a scene or two later in the cabin; after Father shoots himself in the face, there's a gun laying right there, and he just leaves it laying right there. Frustrating.

And why didn't the guys with the guns drink the poisoned Kool-Aid? They were obviously Father's men, so wouldn't they follow his edicts like everyone else? Did they not want to go to "paradise?"

And why didn't Amy Seimetz's character drink the Kool-Aid? I get that she's a former junkie, and is half a bubble off plum mentally, but she chooses to set herself on fire instead of joining her "Family" in their trip up Heaven's Chimney together?

And why did the helicopter circle the encampment at the end? The pilot has already been shot, and the gunmen that shot him are still at large as far as he knows, so why not fly directly away from the camp instead of circle around it, potentially courting more gunfire? The aerial shot was gorgeous, but it just made no sense character-wise.

"So we can just go ahead and snoop around at our leisure then?"
Whoever made up the term "Mumblecore" ought to be slapped in the fucking mouth. Furthermore, whoever took that Hipster bullshit title and decided to apply it to the Horror Genre, calling it "Mumblegore," ought to be shooed in the nuts.

The whole "Mumble" movement is supposed to be about low budget movies that focus on characters talking using naturalistic dialogue, above anything else. It's cost-effective, we get it, but I guess that simply calling films like that "Indies" isn't stylish enough these days? Whatever the reason, it's just lame as hell.

It's like saying "Sammie" when you mean sandwich, or "Totes Adorbs" instead of saying "Totally Adorable." It's just douchey and it needs to stop. Real Talk. Literally. Yolo. Swag.

Fucking Neologisms!

Lots of people drink the poisoned Kool-Aid, some people get shot, and one unlucky soul gets their throat slit. The Sacrament isn't necessarily a gory movie, but it sure is disturbing with its violence.

Of course there's shaky-cam, why wouldn't there be?
If someone you know and love joins a cult, just let them go; it's not worth your life to try and get them to come back to the land of the sane. They knew what this was.

Yeah, she's on her own.
Ti West has dipped his toe in the Found Footage pool before with V/H/S, but with The Sacrament, he dives headfirst into the cold waters of Cinema Verite' to give us a creepy and unsettling take on what may be the most notorious cult massacre the world has ever seen. Aside from a few plot elements that we ranted about above -in way too much detail, mind you- we found The Sacrament to be an enjoyable watch and an effective effort.

The Sacrament is available now on VOD, and will hit theaters in Limited Release on June 6th.


Amy Seimetz is a doll-faced little sweet pea, isn't she? She's also fierce and fiery actress, so double win for us!


  1. Good movie. I thought I would not like it but the end was tense and even a bit scary at times.

    At last a found footage movie that is shot in a way that makes you forget it's found footage. I'm really getting sick of found footage but if future FF movies are shot like this, it can only be a good thing.

  2. I liked this one too. Much like Chronicle, I think this advanced the found footage genre.

    1. Great mention of Chronicle. That WAS a great flick.

  3. Nice review. Once again, my wife and I enjoyed this one although I enjoyed it a bit more.

    We watched a couple months back right after she'd been reading up on the true Jonestown massacre. She actually watched a documentary on it only a day or two prior (so she was not as happy with this film)