The Sacrament (2014)
Starring AJ Bowen, Joe Swanburg, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, and Gene Jones
Directed by Ti West
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
Loosely based on the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, The Sacrament details the story of Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who receives a note from his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) asking him to come and visit her at a religious commune named Eden's Parish that she's helped build in an undisclosed, secret South American location. Patrick works for an online news agency and his boss Sam (AJ Bowen) thinks it would be a good idea to write a story about this burgeoning religious group. So, Patrick, Sam, and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanburg) take a helicopter to the secret location where they meet Caroline and the seemingly "normal" community of people who gave up all their personal belongings in order to move to South America and live together in a peaceful, loving, self-contained community. Eden's Parish was founded by a revered man known as Father (Gene Jones) who deeply cares for all his "adopted" sons and daughters and wants nothing but the best for them. However, he worries that surprise guests Sam and Jake will "out" the community to the American media and cause chaos. Needless to say, things start to go awry.
Taking place over the course of less than 24 hours, The Sacrament works because everything in it could legitimately happen. There aren't slashers or zombies or witches summoning the demons of hell -- this is simply what possibly could happen when religion gets slightly twisted out of control. Towards the end of the film, I genuinely got a little uncomfortable in part because of how closely the film resembled the Jonestown Massacre which was the second largest loss of American civilian lives. Nice performances all around elevate this as well, with particular kudos to Gene Jones as the sleazily southern Father whose docile tone hides a warped religious sensibility.
Although the documentary handheld style works well for the film, there are moments -- particularly towards the film's conclusion as tensions rise -- where the ridiculousness of the genre rears its ugly head. One moment in particular is nearly laughable in the way the allow the viewer to continue to follow actions which would never ever be filmed. Still, The Sacrament is a solid "horror" flick that I heartily recommend.
The RyMickey Rating: B