7 May 2014

Review - 'The Sacrament' is a Chilling Tale with a Lack of Director Control

A fashion photographer is traveling to meet his sister at Eden Parish. Once there, his friends begin to film interviews with the Eden Parish inhabitants, all of whom speak of the commune in glowing terms. However, they soon discover that there is a sinister edge to the commune that belies the seemingly peaceful setting.

Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Stars: AJ Bowen, Gene Jones, Joe Swanberg
Running Time: 95 mins
Sub Genre: Found-Footage
Release: 1st May 2014
The Jonestown massacre was one of the most shocking cases in crime history and to this day still shocks those who learn about the sadistic deeds of Jim Jones. So it was only a matter of time before the dark tale would be made into a genre film especially of this style. The Sacrament is what it is, a horrific telling of the Jonestown Massacre; but that’s all it is, and if you find what I just said slightly confusing, what it was that I meant is that fresh mumblecore director Ti West failed to put his spin on things, so if you have heard the story or seen the documentaries then The Sacrament will add nothing new to an already fascinating tale.

Ti West has always been a director to look out due to his work on The House of the Devil and The Inkeepers, but this doesn't necessarily mean that The Sacrament wasn't able to live up to his previous titles, as it does in many ways, but it all depends on how much you really know about the Jonestwon massacre. If you know a lot, then this adaption with offer you nothing; if you know nothing, then The Sacrament may just be the next horror film you want to check out, as it is as chilling as the real events. However, if you have heard and learnt about the true horror of the events, then Ti West's version will only remind you of what happened without any directorial charge; basically, all you will get out of this is a few shocking kills and a painful reminder of the situation.

There is craft behind The Sacrament, but ultimately, the experience in general is in bad taste. Sure, this is a telling of the true story showing us all the gritty details, but watching a woman set herself in flames isn't exactly what you would call satisfying, especially in a film so heavily based on the true event that it doesn't have any other original quality. Perhaps that never actually happened, but when it's associated with a film so heavy on real suicide it just seems a little tasteless; but then again, actually watching the children die would be the worst in taste. In saying this of course it contradicts my previous point of Ti West not putting his own spin on things, but maybe lacing a few ideas here and there wouldn't have been a bad idea. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

In saying all this, The Sacrament is a strong representation of what true horror is. Horror isn't some man with a knife coming after a shrieking bimbo, and despite how much I love all of that junk, it just isn't real horror, and it's films like The Sacrament that are. Its haunting atmosphere outlasts all of the thrill and keeps things from becoming too tedious, but it's the build up to the hugely shocking final act that makes it all worth the viewing, regardless of its frequent mishaps.

Ti West's The Sacrament adds nothing new to an already familiar tale, but the hugely dark final act and chilling performance from Gene Jones. If you know the story, don't bother; If you don't, prepare yourself for an intense watch.

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