Alright children, buckle your seat belts, because you are about to go on a twisted, emotional journey with VICE: a New York City based multimedia company who is known for covering stories that tend to be overlooked by the mainstream media. Sam Turner (A.J. Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg) go with their friend Patrick Carter (Kentucker Audley) to visit Patrick’s sister, Caroline (Amy Seimetz). Once an addict, Caroline now lives in a mysterious community that will not give their location and do not usually accept visitors.
Written, directed and edited by Ti West, The Sacrament is a compelling and perfectly plotted story about religious cults. West is best known for directing The House of the Devil which is a very polarizing movie. For every person, like myself, that fell head over heels in love with it’s amazing throwback look, feel and tone, there is someone who finds it as boring as watching paint dry and/or pretentious in equal measure. Though not a fan of the Innkeepers or his segment in V/H/S, I have always appreciated what he’s doing. On the other side of that sentiment are the people who believe the only good thing West has done is take an arrow to the head in You’re Next. Well, I cannot wait to hear what all of those negative Nellies have to say after viewing The Sacrament.
West has assembled the usual suspects together (Swanberg, Bowen, Seimetz) to tell the story of Charles Anderson Reed, (Gene Jones) better known as Father to his children at Eden Parish. Jones is absolutely mesmerizing. When Sam finally gets to sit down with him for an interview, it brought me back to those Billy Graham sermons I was dragged to as a child. Gene Jones is fantastic in this role. Bowen is equally amazing playing the hard hitting journalist. Bowen is one of my favorite actors in horror today because he gets better with every role. You see him in The Signal and you are blown away and then he goes and does A Horrible Way To Die and you think, well, this must be his best performance. No children, The Sacrament is, thus far, his finest performance. All of the subtleties required of his character to be believable, but real are played perfectly by Bowen. I simply cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us in the future.
Like all West films, the attention to detail is incredible. The way different scenes are lit, the score, the wardrobe and every single piece of set dressing has been thought of with great care. You will not find any of that distracting nonsense with wall clocks displaying times that make no sense with the story line. This is greatly appreciated because the best part of The Sacrament is the way the tension slowly builds. West has expertly set a pace that puts you on the same stress and emotional level as Sam and Jake. Just when you forget that you are watching a horror film, events take place that had me sitting with my mouth agape. This is all done without loud noises or obvious distractions and that is what makes it so effective. There are so many cinematic details that I would love to gush about for hours, but that would take all of the fun away from your personal viewing experience. The Sacrament is the real deal when it comes to intelligent, thought provoking thriller/horror films. Children, I do hope that you enjoy this film as much as I did.