The Sacrament Movie Review
Written by Charlotte Stear
Written and directed by Ti West
2013, 95 minutes, Rated 18
AJ Bowen as Sam
Joe Swanberg as Jake
Amy Seimetz as Caroline
Kentucker Audley as Patrick
Gene Jones as Father
One of the most anticipated films at TIFF this year came from Ti West, a director who has made a name for himself with his divisive previous outputs House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. While some have praised his appreciation of the genre and his way of creating an uneasy atmosphere, others have found his slow burning style just a little boring. Whether you are a fan of West’s past work or not, The Sacrament is unlike anything he has been involved with before and is an astounding piece of work proving he is one of the genres most innovative directors.
After receiving a mysterious letter from his missing sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) accepts an invitation to visit her in her new life, cut off from the rest of the world in a newly built village. He recruits his friends, VICE documenters Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg), who decide it will make an interesting documentary and start filming from the moment they board the plane. But as soon as they approach the compound, something doesn’t feel right about their new surroundings and things only get stranger when they are introduced to “Father”, the leader of this new found community.
With the story being told as a documentary, the found footage format is a perfect way to explore the subject matter and gives a unique sense of realism which feels it could actually be a VICE documentary. The feeling of dread and uneasiness captivates you from the moment the friends land and when shit hits the fan, the hurried angles of the cameras help create a sense of urgency; we may as well be in the campsite with them for all the stress it puts us through. The way in which things play out is claustrophobic and stressful to say the least and the dread that is created makes it hard to watch.
Though this film is not recreating the events of the infamous Jonestown Massacre, it is an obvious influence which makes it all the more startling and real. West is successful in creating a realistic portrayal through his strong script and the incredible performances from his cast. Standing out is Father himself, played by Gene Jones (yeah, that’s right GENE Jones), who at first appears like a cuddly grandpa but, during an interview with Sam, reveals, just in glimpses, his frightening power. The documentary filmmakers AJ Bowen and Joe Swansberg are likeable and funny, giving the audience people to connect to. Added to this is a great soundtrack that really hits the right nerves when it is needed.
There is no way to prepare for what you will endure watching The Sacrament and it shows how much Ti West has grown as a filmmaker in just a short space of time. It is a unique and startling tale that will haunt you for days after you’ve finished it, and boy does it whet your appetite for more from Mr West.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.