Review: The Sacrament delivers skin-crawling horror

Ti West’s latest foray into the world of horror leaves us with The Sacrament, a heavy hitting shocker that takes its sweet time building skin-crawling tension as a world of pure terror slowly unfolds. West isn’t afraid to push the envelope with his wide-eyed thriller as he weaves a slow-burning tale that will truly leave you speechless by the time the credits roll. The film follows two journalists as they set out to document their friend’s journey to find his missing sister. Their journey leads them to Eden Parish, a self-sustained utopia with a mysterious leader known only as Father at the center of it all.

The film starts out simple enough as we’re introduced to its characters and the reasoning behind why they are traveling to Eden Parish, so enjoy the calm before the storm while you can because once they arrive you can kiss your nerves goodbye. It takes a special kind of filmmaker to make a movie like this work because not only is it of the slow-burn variety, but it’s all told through found-footage. Making just one of those elements work is hard enough as it is but West masterfully blends the two together to tell an amazingly creepy tale that finds a nice cozy spot under your flesh.

Once we’re actually inside Eden Parish, the film washes very a eerie atmosphere over you that will have you questioning its motives almost immediately. Why are these people here? Who is Father and how does he have such a strong hold over these people? Those are just a couple of the questions you’re going to ask yourself, and what’s great is that the main characters in the film are wondering the exact same thing. I loved that they—just like the audience—have a feeling deep down inside that something is just not right with this place. And it’s because of that element that you can never truly get comfortable as the film rolls along. It’s such a smart way to tell a story and shows just how much power a director has when it comes to storytelling. Not once will you get comfortable in this movie which is exactly where West wants you.

While the actors dialed in on some fine performances from top to bottom, the show is absolutely stolen by Gene Jones who plays Father in the film. This dude oozes a creepiness that makes it impossible to take your eyes off the screen as every word that comes out of his mouth is perfectly crafted to freak you the hell out.

But the true power of The Sacrament comes in its final act that has one hell of a gut-punch of a finale. You’ll be speechless as the world of Eden Parish comes crashing down, releasing all that horror that was slowly built up through the entire film. The ending of a horror movie like this is absolutely everything as it can either make or break all that tension that was so deliberately established. The Sacrament barrels through its finale without ever looking back, leaving a path of bloody destruction that is truly unforgettable. West has his fingers firmly planted on the pulse of the horror genre and I can’t wait to see what he’s got for us next.

4/5

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

28 thoughts on “Review: The Sacrament delivers skin-crawling horror

  1. It’s about time I had someone to talk to about this one! You and I are 100% on the same page :). This is possibly West’s best flick to date! Extreme tension and solid performances by the entire and ensemble make this a must-watch for horror fans. Terrific post!

    1. I agree! The whole VICE reporting thing was really clever and added to the realism. Looked like it could have been a segment on the HBO show (up to a point). Liked the way it stayed away from most of the found footage cliches, too. Best thing Ti West has done yet IMO.

  2. Goddammit, I want to see this NOW! Though I might purposely watch it in the daytime. Cults scare the living shit out of me (well, when you/the characters go into their compound and they outnumber you/them). Even though Safe Haven (genius) from V/H/S 2 was over-the-top and fun(really, REALLY fun), I watched it on the plasma in the pitch black and everyone else in the house was asleep, and parts of it are… kind of unsettling. And horror fans talk a lot of shit about Eli Roth, and say what you will but the guy is a true horror fan (not a poser like I first thought) and there’s NOTHING like a scary movie made by horror fans, for other horror fans. Also, though I don’t think Ti West always gets it right, when he DOES get it right, holy shit. I assume you got a screener? Any VOD date out there for this sick puppy?

    1. I’m not sure, man. It’s a really different style of movie. Pretty slow-moving but it’s really tense. I loved it though, really disturbing and the acting was great.

      1. I just watched. I don’t think it was slow at all; it just took it’s time to set the stage, develop characters and build mystery and intrigue – which is what I like in a film. I thought this was good. I am looking at some footage online about the real events this film was based on. Going in, I wasn’t aware it was inspired by true events. I thought it was totally fictional, so now it becomes much more disturbing.

  3. I just realized Gene Jones was the clerk in “Old Country For Old Men”. I didn’t recognize him with the glasses.

    “I need to know what I stand to win.”

    I always thought that exchange between Bardem and the clerk was chilling; and of course Bardem was great, but I always thought the actor playing the clerk was good, as well. And evidentially, he is.

    1. Yea, I looked up Gene Jones after watching this as well and it’s honestly surprising that he hasn’t really done a whole lot of acting work. I hadn’t realized he was the clerk in No Country either. He’s a fantastic actor and really got under my skin in The Sacrament. Solid stuff! Glad you liked it!

    2. (possible spoilers if you haven’t seen The Sacrament)

      Yeah, I started thinking of Jonestown too, but I saw the documentary more than ten years ago and had forgotten most of the details except the basics. The massacre happened when I was alive but way too young to remember seeing it in the news (either that or my parents wisely didn’t talk about it or watch anything in front of a small child). I went and re-read a few things and it’s scary how close it is. There’s an actual recording of the speech Jim Jones gave when they were handing out the, uh, drinks and it is really similar one in the movie, saying that outsiders are coming, etc. Well, the first five minutes was similar. I’m guessing the rest was too, but after 5 minutes in (it was almost 50 minutes) I realized my mental/emotional health was in danger of being temporarily damaged and that I didn’t really need to listen to more of it. I read a description and it gets worse.

      I didn’t think the movie was that much of a slow burn, in fact I was surprised that all hell broke loose early enough so the last half hour+ is a nightmare. I’ve seen a lot of found-footage movies (it seems like every other genre movie now is FF –especially on Netflix streaming–and if I have insomnia anyway, what the hell… most are more lame than scary anyway) and usually they wait till the last 10 minutes (sometime less) to really step it up. In fact the only FF ‘cliche’ was the “if anyone ever finds this… we have to get the truth out” camera guy recording himself, and it was totally justified here.

      Now that I think of it, they could have used the “based on a true story/inspire by actual events” card, but didn’t. Glad they didn’t–I’ve only seen one other FF movie that looked this close to a real documentary. I’ve decided this is definitely my favorite Ti West film, and IMO his best so far.

      Thanks again Ryan (and everyone else who recommended the movie in these comments) because I wouldn’t have seen it yet if I hadn’t read this!

      1. Yea, I usually don’t care for the whole found-footage thing but West really made it work here. This might be my favorite West film as well!

    1. No, wasn’t in much of a hurry as I wasn’t all that into the first film. I’ve heard nothing but great things, though. Did you check it out?

      1. Haha, well shit. I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the person. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it, man!

      2. It’s obvious they got a LOT of money to make it and the gore effects are fantastic. On the other hand the story is totally ridiculous. I’ll get something out soon – have a good weekend!

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