By: Sean Brickley
I will be the first to admit that when I first heard about this movie, I was extremely hesitant. I had seen other Ti West offerings and I just thought they dragged: 60 minutes of build-up, 20 minutes of tossed-together scary. Sorry, I know that this opinion won’t garner me any fans, but I just need to be truthful. Today I watched The Sacrament. Ti West, if you are reading this, I would like to publicly give you every credit possible for this film. Without a lot of jump scares or gory scenes, this film is absolutely terrifying. I attribute this to the movie’s close resemblance to actual shocking and terrible historical events. The attention to detail is extremely noteworthy.
The movie opens explaining that VICE magazine travels to bring the reader the most shocking and controversial stories possible. Sam and Jake work for VICE magazine. They have a friend Patrick whose sister has joined a love community, but the community has relocated out of the country. All she has left behind is a phone number which doesn’t lead to her whereabouts, but does provide Patrick with information on where he should fly into. A helicopter will be waiting for him to bring him the rest of the way. Sam and Jake decide to follow Patrick to document the community and try to bring their story to the outside world.
Following a montage of their trip out of the country and to the commune, they land in a clearing in the middle of the jungle. The helicopter pilot informs him that he will be back at 8AM the following day and he will wait for them for one hour before leaving with or without them. They are greeted by two men who are upset as they weren’t notified that Patrick would be bringing a film crew with him. After a few anxious moments, all three are granted permission to enter. While riding in the back of a truck down the 2 km road to “Eden Parish” (the only road in or out), Sam makes the ominous comment that this may have been the worst idea of their lives.
At the next gate they are greeted by two men with rifles who insist they shut off the camera. When it comes back on Sam states that they may need to be careful about what they film and that there may be a donation required to enter. Caroline, Patrick’s sister, finally meets up with them and says that it is ok for them to continue filming. While she shows them around, a distant loudspeaker announces their arrival as Caroline explains that they have worked very hard to build Eden Parish to support the “Father’s” vision. The crew asks to speak to the Father but Caroline needs to check with him first due to worries about the news media and the local government.
Caroline and Patrick depart for a little while, leaving the crew at their cottage discussing the guns and how nervous they were getting into the truck to come to Eden Parish. They decide to start interviewing some of the commune members. The members prefer personal interaction as opposed to the internet. Faith is most important. They have a rudimentary medical center and have had many children born in the commune. Overall, they seem very happy to be free from the burdens of the outside world. They’ve also sold all of their belongings and homes in order to fund the building of Eden Parish…
From the beginning, this movie just had an overbearingly ominous feeling to it, which subtly builds throughout. Toward the end I turned to my wife and said, “Wow… this movie just does not quit.” It is a brilliant take on the first-person perspective that often times gets dried out when it is attempted in other movies. Every character is believable, from the commune members’ devout faith to the Father’s charisma. If you watch this movie and aren’t left with a gritty speechless feeling afterward then you are a stronger person than I am.