Ti West is a horror film director that excels at building tension. Horror purists have been manipulated into quick and violent stories of gore and macabre. What West does is allow intensity and uneasiness to climax when at its most unbearable. A master of the slow burn, his latest story takes a page from the history books.
In “The Sacrament,” West writes and directs the tale of three men who visit a hidden society. Patrick, a photojournalist, has learned that his sister Caroline is free from drugs and living a sober life in Mississippi. When he attempts to reach out to her, Patrick finds his sister and the church community she has joined have moved to another part of the world. With his fellow journalists Sam and Jake in tow, the three set off to Eden Parrish, a hidden cult-like oasis in what appears to be Africa. As Patrick and Caroline reconnect, Jake and Sam attempt to understand and explore the camp. Despite being mostly welcome, an ominous nature lingers behind everything. Father (Gene Jones) has created a home for many lost souls, from drug addicts to isolated people. But the deeper Sam and Jake dig, the more concerned they are for Patrick and Father’s intentions for them.
For those familiar with history, “The Sacrament” borrows heavily from the terrifying story of Jonestown. What West and his cast create is a grounded view of what may have actually occurred in those final days. Though occasionally violent and disturbing, the worst of the gore is left off screen. Instead, we see the after effects of the carnage as the story unfolds.
Viewers expecting the routine gore and explicit violence may not connect with West’s film, but for those who invest in it, will be rewarded. The story moves at a pace and from a perspective that allows you to experience only what the men see (they are attempting to create a documentary of the village). In spite of being technically a found-footage film, the execution never feels like a gimmick. Definitely a thinking person’s horror film. 3 out of 5 stars
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**Also available on VOD**