The Sacrament

Director: Ti West (2014)
Starring: AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Gene Jones
Find it: IMDB

I feel as though I like the idea of Ti West more than I do any film the man has ever actually made. Starting his career with the underwhelming House of the Devil and a dud sequel to Cabin Fever, West has done nothing but disappoint this humble horrorhound. Sure, his films are pretty and steeped in love for the genre, but too often they lack a personality of their own - being too beholden to the past and the artifice of horror cinema. In theory, I should adore his filmography. In reality, I am left indifferent to it.

West returns with The Sacrament, a faux-documentary which sees a two-man documentary crew (of real-life team VICE) investigate the initiation of a man's sister into a mysterious cult. Travelling to the camp in an unnamed, very rural country, the three men quickly set about snooping. At first, everything seems idyllic; missing Caroline (Amy Seimetz) is happy and well, the villagers cheerful and friendly. Granted an interview with head honcho 'Father' (a magnetic Gene Jones) the guys are left almost convinced that everything is as Father would have it appear. Almost.

Predictably, affairs take a turn for the worse when a local girl comes begging to the guys for help. From there, a series of massive overreactions leads to exactly the sort of thing one has been expecting all along. Clearly taking its inspiration from the real-life Jonestown Massacre, the ensuing events are not difficult to predict, even if West wholly fails to make any of it feel plausible or justified by the situation and characters. His actors take up much of the slack - most notably Jones, a cross between John Goodman and Michael Parks in Red State. His smooth charisma makes it a little easier to believe that the events of The Sacrament could actually somehow happen. I mean, they really did, in Jonestown, but West isn't good enough to harness that in his storytelling.

The Sacrament is a compelling, oddly watchable toy documentary, made more valuable for its performances and visual flair. It's undeniably overhyped, but it bears investigation, nevertheless. 

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