The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.
Since this is a found footage film, it is imperative that every actor comes off as genuine, or else the entire film suffers. Fortunately there are a lot of great actors in The Sacrament. The actors with the largest challenge do an exceptional job: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Gene Jones, and Amy Seimetz. Seimetz and Jones play two characters that the audience is supposed to hate, and they pulled it off because I hated the hell out of them.
Story & Script
The Sacrament is a found footage film that sees three journalists head to a religious commune that one of their sister’s now belongs to. They bring along the cameras in the hopes of making a news story out of it (they work for a company called Vice, which is known for their immersive journalism). The only real complaint about the film is that things go pretty much as expected. Everything starts off looking like a paradise, but then something happens where the crew finds out that things aren’t exactly as they seem. It plays out how you’d expect a horror film based around a religious commune to play out, but it still manages to be interesting throughout. It would have been great to get more specifics, but the ambiguity of it all doesn’t really hurt the film (nor does it enhance it).
Ti West runs into the same problem that most found footage directors run into: how to justify keeping the camera on. This works here to a degree, but at some point it becomes hard to believe that these people are filming just because they want to make sure the story gets told. When the antagonist picks up the camera in the later stages, it makes it even harder to suspend disbelief. Overall, though, West does a good job of keeping this story moving forward at a quick pace, even when 15 minutes are spent on an interview (this is a credit to the script as well, which West also wrote).
As I’ve said a hundred times in the past, I generally like found footage films. The Sacrament is another one that I can point to as being a reason I enjoy the genre. This could have worked as a traditional film, but the found footage aspect puts the viewer into the character’s position in a way that is effective in this type of story. This reminded me of Red State, but I enjoyed how this played out a lot more. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the end of the film, but I find them unjustified. The only problem I had with the ending is that it is – for the most part – predictable.
I would watch The Sacrament again if I had to for some of the performances, but otherwise I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it a second time.
The Sacrament is a strong found footage horror film that shows the power religion can hold in a negative light. As someone who enjoys both found footage and films with similar religious themes, I liked the movie a great deal. The biggest complaint is that things play out exactly how you’d expect them to. Fortunately the script and story are both strong enough to keep things interesting anyway, and definitely make The Sacrament worth tracking down.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.
Good review Branden. Maybe West’s weakest movie to date. Which is a shame, because he’s one of the fresher voices in horror we have today.