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'The Sacrament' is Ti West at his best

The Sacrament movie poster
The Sacrament movie poster
Magnet Releasing

The Sacrament

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In the late 20th Century, filmmakers like John Carpenter and Wes Craven were considered “Masters of Horror” (the title was more associated with Carpenter). Today, May 2, 2014 sees the release of “The Sacrament” available on iTunes and On Demand from writer/director Ti West. While he may not be a household name, he is one of today’s horror masters and his newest creation is his best work to date.

The premise for “The Sacrament” was influenced by the Jonestown Massacre of 1978. If you are unfamiliar with what happened in Jonestown you will have to look it up because there will be no spoilers here. The movie takes place in the present, however. Two friends follow and document their fashion photographer friend’s journey to visit his sister at the Eden Parish somewhere in South America. Thanks to the leader known as Father (Gene Jones) everyone they meet says they are truly living in paradise, but they soon learn that not everything is as it seems and the three friends may be in grave danger.

Most of “The Sacrament” is shot in a “found footage” fashion. While this style is beginning to become pretty tired, Ti West utilizes the technique well to tell his story. Part of that reason is that the movie is not being presented as someone who found the footage and put it together for us to see, but rather we are witnessing what these men are taping “live” as it is happening which will only make the horror they later witness all the more horrifying.

Something that Ti West has mastered really well is building suspense. When we first see the men enter Eden Parish all does seem well, yet there is always something underlining eerie about what is going on. That gets exemplified even more when we first meet Father. Gene Jones (It’s just a coinincidence his last name is Jones too) really owns the role and continually creeps you out even before we meet his when we just hear his voice over a PA system. There is no weak performance anywhere in the cast.

“The Sacrament” first premiered a couple of months ago at the Miami International Film Festival. The climatic scenes were so intense that some people watching the movie walked out because what they saw was too intense. This movie is not for the faint of heart. If you are familiar with what happened in Jonestown then imagine actually being there and witnessing what happened. It rings terror up to a whole other level.

Ti West has already made horror classics such as “The House of the Devil.” This time he has really outdone himself, as filmmakers should always strive to do, with “The Sacrament.” The movie is scheduled to hit theaters on June 6 and movies are usually best enjoyed by seeing it in a theater, but if you can’t wait that long then it will make a great late night rental now. It is Rated R for disturbing violent content including bloody images, language and brief drug use.