THE SACRAMENT (2013). Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE SACRAMENT (2013)

4 stars
Second Sight. Limited Edition and Standard Edition Blu Ray

I have always found Ti West’s work a bit hit and miss with films like THE ROOST (2005) and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) only so-so in my estimation – though his latest offerings X and PEARL (both 2022) were excellent and I am looking forward to MAXXXINE. So it was interesting to visit this film from 2013 which I hadn’t previously seen.

The movie opens with a screen setting the film up and explaining about VICE – the news, arts and culture online outlet that’s is known for covering the more controversial stories of the day. Sam Turner (A J Bowers) is a correspondent for the service and he is hooking up with freelance photographer Patrick Carter (Kentucker Audley), whose sister Caroline (Aimee Seimitz), who has always struggled with drug addiction, has mysteriously upped sticks from New York and moved to a sober-living community in rural Mississippi. Patrick has then received an odd letter (remember those?), with a phone number. This led him to a man who informed him his sister had left the country with her new friends. It also told him where to fly to, where a helicopter would be waiting to travel the rest of the way, to where is now living. Sounds like the basis of a possible story for the multimedia company so Sam persuades him to let himself and another VICE member, cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) to tag along and investigate.

So they set off to find it what has really happened to Caroline and what this Christian community called Eden Parish is all about… of course what they find and the picture that is initially painted is not all it seems to be. It is run by Father (a compelling and creepy performance by Gene Jones), who controls the place with a tight grip and even has men dotted about with guns… why, if it is such a great place to live?

Believably acted, it doesn’t take long to realise this is a modern retelling of a certain famous cult massacre, with a growing sense of dread as it moves inexorably to the conclusion we know is coming. This is really well done and whilst you know where it is going it is no less shocking and effective when it gets there. Sold ostensibly as a horror film this is actually a slow burn drama which is more a study of how people can be swept up in a cult and how one man can have such a powerful sway on what a whole group will do.

Whilst this could be included in the found footage oeuvre, it is well shot as Jake is supposed to be a professional – he even has a tripod; it does begin in that style but by the end there is cross cutting between cameras and this is more like a pseudo-documentary. Shot in Savannah, Georgia, but supposedly set in some far off country, this keeps you gripped from the outset and has an intelligent script by West who helms the film with a sure hand. The score by Tyler Bates is worthy of note as is Eric Robbins cinematography.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
3 stars

New interviews with Actor AJ Bowen (30 mins); Actor Joe Swanberg (10 mins); Actor Amy Seimetz (14 mins); Actor Gene Jones (13 mins) and with Producer Peter Phok (25 mins)

Truthiness: a 10 minute video essay with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on The Sacrament. I always find these a bit pretentious

An interesting making of The Sacrament (59 mins)

Limited Edition also gets Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Chris Malbon; 70-page book with new essays by Anton Bitel, Kat Hughes, Rich Johnson and Beth Kelly; 6 collectors’ art cards