Review: The Sacrament

Ti West’s ‘The Sacrament’ is perhaps a movie I could be accused of sleeping on somewhat. On revisiting for its 4K release I’m going to say it’s a far more effective movie than I perhaps gave it credit for upon its initial release.

I’ve mentioned this in another review recently (Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum), but back in the early 2010s found footage movies were ten-a-penny. Most followed the same formula, with the seemingly improv dialogue suffering the most, along with the shaky-cam experience rounding of a sub-par package in most examples.

Here, however, ‘The Sacrament’ circumvents both the above issues by having the ‘footage’ collected by a professional e-zine, in this instance, VICE. Given the release of other folk/cult horrors such as ‘Midsommar’ the movies actually stood the test of time in both format and theme.

The plot follows two vloggers who accompany their friend as they try to locate and rescue his sister from a mysterious cult operating a commune in the ass-end of know where. Flying out via helicopter to the secluded commune they are taken back somewhat to be greeted with armed escorts. Assured that this was just a precaution, they are allowed to freely roam the complex of ‘Eden Parish’. The people they meet seem a little quirky, but never the less, they all purport to have found eutopia within their community – your standard hippy style commune led by the revered ‘Father’.

However, the pair cannot let their cynicism lie, and after receiving an ominous note following their interview with the aforementioned Father/founder of the commune things kick off in an escalation I don’t think any of them saw coming.

The film is more of a docu-drama with a shocking twist, and there’s little to no traditional horror. It’s not particularly violent either, save the somewhat standout final ‘Sacrament’ scene; on reflection I think that’s why perhaps I didn’t really know what to make of it when I watched it back in the day.

This time around however I really got sucked in to the movie’s themes and nuances.

Perhaps I’m reaching, but I feel there’s something of a genuine case to analyse the average persons susceptibility for suggestion and manipulation. In ‘The Sacrament’ the people left behind their physical lives to be at the commune, seduced by the need to belong.

There are some parallels with the rabbit hole people go down with online groups and the choices some make as a result; or even consider the political fever pitches of recent times – the capitol riots in the US for example. To the outside they seemed like madness, however to those indoctrinated there was no other choice, and their perspective was absolute.

I recognise I’m rambling here, but I felt the movies themes and concept was un-nerving, and when it reached its inevitable climax, the film’s plausible concept made it hit a little harder than you’d expect.

The scripting is solid enough, but I’d say the acting was what really grounded the film; specifically from the main cast. The enigmatic ‘Father’ steels every scene he’s in, so authentic I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was the genuine article.

That said, I wouldn’t say the film’s entirely perfect. The pacing is a little slow, and there are quite a few leaps in plot escalations that don’t feel all that organic. There is also the fact that you know to make the movie a horror of sorts that something has to be wrong with the commune, and so knowing this renders some of the early dialogue somewhat redundant. I found the film’s climax to be un-nerving, however the film lacks the depth of more modern examples say from A24 and the ilk.

Overall however, ‘The Sacrament’ was well worth revisiting, with the climax of the movie still packs a punch and some decent performances help get the film their with some flair.

Previous post Review: Arcadian
Next post Review: The Exorcism