The Sacrament (2013): Review


Directed by: Ti West  Written by: Ti West Starring: Amy SeimetzJoe SwanbergKate Lyn Sheil

The blurb says: “From acclaimed writer/director Ti West (The House of the Devil) and master of horror Eli Roth (Hostel), THE SACRAMENT follows two journalists as they set out to document their friend’s journey to find his missing sister. They travel to “Eden Parish,” a self-sustained utopia. At the center of this small, religious, socialist community is a mysterious leader known only as “Father.” As their friend reunites with his sister, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems. What started as just another documentary shoot soon becomes a race to escape with their lives.”

What I thought: Those of you who have read my past reviews will know that I have been a fan of Ti West for a while. Despite my previous form with Mr West I had deliberately kept my ears closed to the particulars of his latest effort, meaning I went in to watching The Sacrament with no expectations. As a result I was taken very much by surprise. The name “The Sacrament” summons up images of something more akin to The Omen or The Exorcist, and I thought perhaps a poltergeist film was in the offing. Indeed, the UK version of the cover would lead you to believe it was just that.

The sacrament

Can you tell I screen-grabbed this from Twitter?

Instead of pea-soup spewing, swivel-headed little girls being doused with holy water in darkened rooms, The Sacrament offers a more subtle kind of horror. Our three protagonists are a very modern trio, a photographer and two journalists who work for Vice, their tale beginning when they decide to film the reunion with one of their siblings who has begun a new life in a remote commune. The use of immersion journalism is a nice twist on the found footage or docu-drama genre, but still gives a sense of reality that often gets missed in modern horror. This sense of reality is what The Sacrament does incredibly well. This is a horror story that seems entirely plausible. The events that unfold are close enough to tales you have heard in the media for it to seem like something that might well have happened, and becomes all the more unsettling for it.

Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) is great as the addict sister, completely convincing in her own muddled conviction, as are the 3 Vice journalists (including A.J Bowen as Sam, who also starred in West’s ‘House of the Devil’). However, the real star of the show is Gene Jones as the charismatic and sinister Father. He brings a great plausibility to the role, being both charming and unsettling in his manner, adding to the sense of paranoia and tension.
The Sacrament is a thoroughly modern take on the religious horror trope, and piles tension upon tension towards a dizzying and shocking climax.
7 out of 10

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