SFIFF57 Report: Ti West’s “The Sacrament”

SACRAMENT_01three-stars15With his 2009 film, The House of the Devil, Ti West proved, that when done correctly, it is possible to make inspired horror that is authentic and sincere while still unabashedly paying homage to the subgenre for which it is targeting. Bluntly put, his homage to the 1980s teenagers-in-danger-of-being-hacked-to-shit films was, and still is, five-fucking-star awesome!

With his latest, The Sacrament, West is again paying homage to the horror subgenre, only this time out it’s of the found-footage ilk, and although it doesn’t fall under the status of being fucking awesome, there is still enough moody unease, and at least one sweet as bear meat performance to warrant the classification of being righteously rad. FYI, righteously rad is about 2 levels below fucking awesome. It’s a good thing.

The premise is this: Three cutting edge reporters set off to a remote location to see if one of their sister’s is alive and well. She’s supposed to be in a rehab center, yet somehow ended up in a cult in God knows where. After seeing that their friend’s sister is alive, they start to investigate the cult to try to find out if all cults really are bad? Spoiler alert: this is a horror movie, so yeah, as far as cults go, this one is pretty awful, but not at first glance, mind you.

In typical Ti West fashion we spend a good three quarters of the run time on the edge of our seats just waiting for the ball to drop, which no doubt we know eventually will. Up until that moment though there’s plenty for any fan of Late Night genre films to delight in. Suspenseful musical cues, a creepy mute child, and my favorite, a sweaty overlord preacher type called Father (played by the excellent, and ultra-captivating character actor, Gene Jones, whom I first discovered in No Country For Old Men as the man who narrowly escaped being cattle-gunned to death by winning a coin toss) are just three of these things. Unfortunately, the ending, in all of its actiony attempts at elevating the tension from subtle to bat shit bananas had no real impact, which seems to be another common theme in West’s filmography thus far, with the exception of The House of the Devil, that is.

Back to the positive aspect of the film though, cause, hey, I can be a positive guy. Unlike other found-footage fright flicks, West’s film plays more like an eerie too-explicit-for-primetime reenactment from something one might find in the more creepier episodes of A Current Affair (Maury, before the Maury Povich Show. Anybody?). It’s nice to see a director use the found-footage style without being tied down to, or restrained to it. While there are a few ultra shaky moments, for the most part the camera tended to keep steady – a welcoming aesthetic that his V/H/S brethren should be paying more attention to.

One final note: Regardless of the film’s legal message at the end of the credits as to how the names and events don’t reflect any actual real persons or places, I still think this is eerily similar to the real life events that transpired during the Jonestown massacre of 1978. That in itself make this a scary film, so-so ending or not.

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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival

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