Directed By Ti West
If you are not familiar with the story of the Jonestown massacre don't read this review. The Peoples Temple were direct inspiration for Ti Wests latest film The Sacrament.
This is the second found footage horror film that I have seen in the last week and I loved both of them. I had convinced myself that there was no life remaining in the found footage concept but Bobcat Golthwait and Ti West have shown me that I was way off. Before the opening scene of The Sacrament title cards give a brief explanation of the Vice multimedia company. Vice is a company that is known for “covering provocative & controversial stories” that are normally “overlooked in the mainstream media” and the type of journalism they practice is known as “immersionism.” In the opening scene of The Sacrament we are introduced to Sam Turner and Patrick Carter. Sam is a journalist from from Vice and Patrick is a photographer whose sister Caroline disappeared after attending a sober living facility in Mississippi. After months of no word from Caroline, Patrick receives a letter in the mail from. In the letter Caroline explains that she has been busy building a community where she can live as God intended and that despite being happier than she has ever been she misses Patrick. No forwarding address is included, just a phone number. Patrick calls the number and it leads him to a man who explains that his sister has moved out of the country with the rest of the community. The man will not give him the exact location of the community, just the place where he can land a plane to meet up with a helicopter who will take him the rest of the way.
If you are familiar with The Peoples Temple this sounds a bit familiar and you might have an idea of where this story is heading. The brilliance of Ti West is how slowly he ratchets up the tension. How he sprinkles in little touches that create an increasing sense of anxiety. The film never slows down to let you catch up or breathe, it just slowly builds on itself until it has become complete chaos. Even though I had a good idea of exactly where this film was taking me, it was still a powerful and draining experience. The roller coaster analogy is completely over used but that is the first thing that comes to mind when I try to explain this movie. Not really the experience of watching the movie but having fore knowledge of what might happen. When you stand in line at an amusement park and watch the ride, when you hear people screaming at the same places over and over you think you have an idea of what the ride will be like. But, you are not prepared for the the ride at all. In fact having an idea of where it's going has built in more anticipation and added to the thrill of getting in that seat and giving yourself over to the experience. Sorry about the hacky analogy but I just want to assure you that having an idea of where this film is leading you will not prepare you for the experience of witnessing it. Writing this and thinking about the events of the film has given me sweaty palms and an ill at ease feeling all over again.
The Sacrament is a well made thriller/horror about blind faith. I'm not sure that anything is scarier than
people who believe without question, people who are so desperate for an answer that they will ignore all warning signs because they refuse to live in a world where they have not found the answer.
The Sacrament is playing in limited release and available on VOD.