Monday, 6 July 2015

'The Sacrament' review.

On a whim, I decide to review Ti Wests latest effort, hit the jump for my thoughts on the found-footage mockumentary...

Take one look at that poster above. It's probably one of the best posters I have ever seen. Why? Because A) It looks awesome and B) it says everything you need to know about the Sacrament. More than even the trailer could convey. The statement at the top is clearly a stab at the poster for 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and the retro look embodies the spirit of Hooper's film. So it's clear that West is providing an exploitative lens. The 'documented' part shows that the film will be hand shot in a found-footage/documentary style, and the 'Tragedy at Eden Parish' combined with the religious cross in the title quite obviously draws comparisons with the Jonestown Massacre. So no, professional critics, West does not wan't the climax to be a twist; you are not the only ones who have heard of the historical events that inspired it -The Sacrament is all about dread.
'The Interview'? Not quite...

In some nice character exposition, we learn about our hosts. West is clever and doesn't want to fall into many of the found-footage traps that most of these films do fall into. So, of course, he makes his protagonists VICE reporters - nice. Not only can he now make his film look nice, but he can tap into social issues and create a sense of realism that just makes the movie. Think about it, the story is typical of VICE, and the involvement of an actual company lends an extra dimension which, of course, is absent in most movies of this type.

Inevitable madness
So, our friends (or enemies depending on how hipster you are) Sam, Patrick, and Jake go off into the wild on a search for Patrick's sister, Caroline. Of course, things seem a bit off, and West uses this to build tension. For a start, the location of the parish is not given; the crew are transported there by private helicopter. Next, the compound is guarded by armed militia; and finally, a sense of unease pervades the entire establishment due to a number of nice features that West adds in the peripherals of the screen. So can critics stop talking about the absence of a twist? We know something will go wrong, we know the congregation will drink the kool aid, and we know that our protagonists will be in danger. Will they live or die? We don't know. Will West augment or merely represent the Jonestown Massacre? We don't know that either. The dread and suspense that is caused by inevitability is surely unrivaled here compared with many other horror movies (except in the case of films like It Follows).

It's really a film of two halves. In the first, West builds the aforementioned tension, then the second begins once night falls and Sam interviews 'The Father'. From here on in, the movie becomes a relentless game of cat and mouse, as the cult collapses in on itself and the documentarians fight to escape. Indeed, there is no shortage of gore here, but it never feels forced or overly exploitative; more playfully exploitative in appreciation of Tobe Hooper's classic.  It's fast, furious, disturbing, and incredibly tense right up until the end. I highly recommend that you see it.

A charismatic leader
But there's a couple of problems. Ti West is, of course, Ti West; so in taking on the found footage genre one would assume he would produce something more original. Despite the fact it works so well, it falls into a rut at certain points, and really just echoes found footage films that have come before it (nevertheless improving on a genre that is usually appalling). It also, at some points, just feels a bit empty. Despite the fact that West evokes and explores Jonestown, I did want something a bit more than that at certain points and thus I must dock it two stars (although I think it could easily be a four star movie depending on your mood).

The Sacrament gets 3 stars!

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