Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70% (Critics) / 90% (Audience)
Directed By: Ti West
Written By: Ti West
Starring: Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen and Gene Jones
Studio: Magnet Releasing
Synopsis: A fashion photographer is traveling to meet his sister at Eden Parish. Once there, his friends begin to film interviews with the Eden Parish inhabitants, all of whom speak of the commune in glowing terms. However, they soon discover that there is a sinister edge to the commune that belies the seemingly peaceful setting. – (Source)
Ti West does a fine job keeping a feeling of unease just below the surface once the intrepid Vice reporters arrive at Eden’s Parish. While things seem all happiness and love there always feels like that veneer is about to fall away and something horrible is going to happen imminently. The patented Ti West “slow burn” works much better here than it did in West’s THE INNKEEPERS. And once all hell finally breaks loose you feel the fear and anxiety that the frightened reporters feel once they realize they are all alone and far from home at the mercy of a madman.
The performances are really good too with the followers at Eden’s Parish having a certain vacant look in their eyes even while being all bubbly and seemingly content. The best performance though belongs to character actor Gene Jones as Father, the leader of the commune. Outwardly Jones looks like the nice old guy who owns the corner store in your neighborhood. But underneath he is a manipulative monster with seriously dark intentions and that darkness is always there in every Southern Gentlemanly word that escapes his lips. In his interview scene with the Vice guys there is such malicious subtext to the most benign thing he says and it is all thanks to Jones’ performance.
The suddenness of how deeply out of wack events became within a 24 hour period never really felt true to me. There wasn’t nearly enough disruption in the “harmony” of camp life by the Vice reporters to mitigate Father taking the drastic action he did. As a person who has been fascinated by the real life events in Jonestown (and having watched the different movies and documentaries that detailed those events) that this film hews very tightly to, I know what made Jim Jones decide to take such drastically final measures and nothing close to that was shown as happening in this film.
There is something a bit distasteful about how closely West’s film is to the real life Jonestown Massacre story. I understand an artist being inspired by true events but to make this film that is almost a dramatization of what happened in Jonestown just comes off as really skeevy to me even though I found myself liking the THE SACRAMENT as a movie.
Final Verdict: A good movie that it all the beats you could want in an unnerving thriller and features a major breakthrough performance from George Jones. THE SACRAMENT does veer dangerously into the realm of tastelessness by how it sticks a bit too close to the real life events of the Jonestown Massacre but that is probably a personal beef that most people won’t have.