Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Film Review: The Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of the better contemporary horror movies..."

A pair of filmmakers document a friend's attempt to locate his estranged sister after she joins an isolate religious community.

The Sacrament is a mockumentary following reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg), who document Patrick as he searches for his sister. They are led to Eden Parish, an isolated community which is only accessible by helicopter. A community free of violence, drugs, and racism -- free of capitalism, imperialism, and materialism. So, the crew documents this community until they meet the charismatic leader called "Father" (Gene Jones). Eventually, they find everything is not what it seems. The final act becomes more of a traditional thriller; oddly, it also feels slower and less immersive. The ending is good, though.

The Sacrament is a great film. In fact, I think the first two acts are fantastic. I love the mockumentary-style, and the concept is very well executed. The Sacrament feels like a genuine documentary. Eden Parish feels like a real utopia, like a real community. And this great feeling of authenticity contributes greatly to the overall immersion of the film. I also love the feeling of being immersed -- you know, the type of movie where your eyes are locked on the screen and you never check the runtime. Aside from the great immersion, The Sacrament is tense and suspenseful. Some moments were nail-bitingly tense, like the masterful interview segment.

The Sacrament isn't absolutely perfect, though. As I previously stated, the final act becomes more of a traditional thriller and opts for a more predictable route -- you can guess where it's going, probably before even starting the film. As soon as it hits the climax, the amazing slow-burn feeling cools down. The pacing picks up, but it feels less immersive and less effective. Despite the hectic thrills, the film's grand finale fails to land as effectively as the first two acts. That doesn't make The Sacrament terrible, but it makes the ending a bit more disappointing.

The acting is all-around great, especially from the supporting cast. AJ Bowen, who slightly disappointed in The Rites of Spring, delivers a good performance. Joe Swanberg is also good, although he shares less screen time. Gene Jones, however, steals the show with a wonderfully charismatic and memorable performance. The film's mockumentary-style manages to capture some great photography. The camerawork is also great, although it occasionally becomes somewhat nauseating during the final act. The ominous music helped in setting the chilling atmosphere. I wasn't a big fan of the orange blood, though. Writer and director Ti West, who also directs The Innkeepers, is great; the story is interesting and engaging, the performances are great, and the tension is strong.

Overall, The Sacrament is a great film. It's a very tense and suspenseful slow-burn mockumentary. I was hooked during the first two acts and, although I was a bit disappointed, I was adequately satisfied by the finale. The superb performance from Gene Jones helps this film anchor itself as one of the better contemporary horror movies -- both in general horror and in acting. For fans of slow-burn films and Ti West, I strongly recommend.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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