a zoo in hell


The Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament Review

Both Eli Roth and Ti West have come down a few notches in my own critical book lately. Hemlock Grove was kind of a miss and I haven't seen much else from Roth that has interested me. For awhile Ti West could do no wrong, but his segment on V/H/S mostly left me underwhelmed. Some horror filmmakers get it right a few times and then spend the rest of their careers trying to figure out what worked so well. I hope these don't have this problem.

Personally, I think the pressure of Blumhouse's genre machine is having a downgrade effect on other filmmakers. The Sacrament, with its low-budget DSLR feel and hastily concocted storyline feel like it was rushed through production, because, well, that's the way we make horror movies now.

I'm going to say this now, because I don't see it being said in the top hits on Google. This is a movie about Jim Jones and Jonestown. Instead of a Senator paying a visit, it is a video team from Vice Magazine. Sam (AJ Bowen), the reporter, brings his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) to follow Patrick (Kentucker Audley) as he tries to rescue his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) from a strange commune. I am sure it is not a spoiler to tell you that this idyllic commune is not as it appears. If you know the story of Jonestown, you can predict the entire rest of this movie, right down to the shooting at the airfield.

As far as that goes, the film does a decent job of bringing this horror to fictional life. Father (Gene Jones) is one of the better Jim Jones I've seen and he also manages to work in a little bit of Kim Jong Un too. Amy Seimetz delivers a decent blend of psychosis and girl-next door charm. The sets are clearly drawn from the actual compound and most of the rhetoric is as well. I cannot figure out why there isn't a "Based on a True Story" title card because there is no escaping the deep shadows of Jonestown that fall across this entire film.

There's not a lot of traditional horror either. The poisoning sequences are gruesome and painful. There is one pretty bloody end, but even the worst of that is taken off camera. Mostly The Sacrament is gunshots and threatening doom, with not much else actually happening.

There is very little in the found footage genre that interests me these days, and I thought these guys were further ahead of the curve, so this film seems like a giant step backwards. Hopefully, this is just a short vacation before both of these horror stars return to the worlds they are so good at creating otherwise.

The Sacrament