I’ll admit it - I’m so sick of found footage flicks. What started as a clever and cheap device for filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez back in 1999 for their breakout horror flick "The Blair Witch Project" (not the first of course, but certainly the most prolific!) has spawned so many subpar films that it’s all but exhausted every aspect of the first person camera movement. And yet with his uncanny ability to manipulate tone and pace effectively, "The House of the Devil" and "The Innkeepers" filmmaker Ti West manages with his latest film "The Sacrament" to transcend and actually overcome the done-to-death style and add yet another notable movie notch to his impressive body of work.
Patrick is a fashion photographer whose drug-addicted sister Caroline has gone missing, but one day he receives a mysterious letter. It’s from Caroline and it states not only has she found solace and rehabilitation in a local commune called Eden Parish, but also she wants her brother to come to its undisclosed location to meet her there. Weary and worried, Patrick brings along two Vice media correspondents to document the event and see what the commune is all about.
As with most of West’s work the slow and simmering build of the piece is front and center and in "The Sacrament" it’s actually two-fold. For the first part sees West creating a lush and almost serene like vibe with Eden Parish, a seemingly beautiful, non-judgmental and almost ideal place to live that’s void of the cult-like trappings normally associated with such places. The second part, of course, is the stuff that usually follows, an unraveling of paradise if you will and it’s equally as poignant and powerful. All are a part of that Ti West design that almost always becomes about the journey as opposed to the destination and gets the most out of what is not seen. As far as the acting goes, there are some West regulars here like AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg as the skeptical camera/interview team, as well as Amy Seimetz as the strange sister Caroline. But the true knockout performance of this show is the charismatic, yet creepy turn by Gene Jones as the commune’s leader simply called Father. So odd, eerie and captivating is the work by Jones that it’s not hard to see why the disillusioned lambs of Eden Parish would follow his every word – he knows his audience.
Yes, the documentary style footage that the film employs does make one wish West had simply gone the normal film route. But thankfully the director and his Cinematographer Eric Robbins never let it distract from the impact of the piece and any damaging effect on "The Sacrament" as a film is minimal to none. It simply goes to show that even in the face of a dying and overblown genre, a little Ti West goes a long way.
"THE SACRAMENT" IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE VIA ON DEMAND AND iTUNES AND HITS SELECT THEATERS JUNE 6 FROM MAGNOLIA PICTURES.