The Sacrament (2013) Review

The Sacrament (2013)

Directed & Written by Ti West

Starring: A. J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Kate Lyn Sheil, Gene Jones

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A. J. Bowen and Joe Swanberg play journalists who document their co-worker’s (Kentucker Audley) attempt to locate his sister (Amy Seimetz) after she joins a reclusive religious commune. The film’s plot borrows heavily from the real life events of the Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

My Opinion:

For some reason, it seems that it’s become a sort of tradition for me to review a Ti West movie on this blog every October. I hope he keeps making them so I have one to watch next year as well! No, wait – I actually don’t care as I can’t say I’ve exactly loved any of them. And, of the three I’ve seen, The Sacrament was my least favorite by far.

As I say every year, Ti West’s films are not to everyone’s taste. They’re sooooo slllllooooooowwwwwwww. It’s more about the mood & atmosphere that he creates, which is something that I appreciate in a horror film, and I think he did a good job with this in The Innkeepers and especially in The House Of The Devil. I actually liked both of those movies just fine, especially as far as horror goes since it’s not a genre I love due to there being so many bad ones made in the past 20 years. They’ll never be favorite films of mine or ones I’ll ever watch again but they’ve actually both gone up in my estimation since seeing them (especially The House Of The Devil). So, if you’re at all curious about his work, I suggest you start with those and not with The Sacrament. The level of “boring” was just far too high this time & with no decent payoff at the end, which at least the other two sort of managed.

The concept behind The Sacrament, a story about a mysterious cult similar to that responsible for the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, is decent enough. I mean, that’s an absolutely fascinating story. I just think watching a real documentary of that actual event would be far more interesting than watching this fictional documentary version of what’s pretty much the exact same story as far as I can tell. Oh! Yeah, this a “found footage” film – had I not mentioned that yet? Some of you are probably running away screaming right now – Ti West AND found footage! Well, I’ll be honest & say that found footage films really don’t bother me that much & I’ve even quite liked a few where I thought that gimmick worked well (Cloverfield & Chronicle). I guess it does work pretty well in The Sacrament but the whole movie just feels a bit pointless and feels like Ti West has run out of ideas so he’s just borrowing a real-life “horror” story.

I’m making this movie sound a little worse than it is. I liked the three main characters (the two journalists & the friend who attempt to rescue the friend’s sister from the isolated commune). Ti West usually does an okay job making us like the main characters (I really liked the girl in The Innkeepers). At the very least, his characters are a little more developed than a lot of modern horror movie characters. I don’t understand horror movies with hateful characters – I want to like them & see them survive. I wanted these three to rescue the sister & escape (do they? maybe – I won’t say). Well, actually, the sister was a bit annoying… There were a lot of children so I found that upsetting as I didn’t want them to be harmed but, overall, I found this movie to be lacking in tension which is odd considering the suject matter. That just may be because it’s quite obvious how it’s all going to end.

The most unfortunate thing is that we don’t get a good look into those who are a part of the cult, though, and what would possess them to follow “Father”, the rather uncharismatic cult leader. That’s the more interesting story here and the one that I’m sure people find most puzzling about real-life cults. How are cult leaders able to convince a group of people to believe their crazy beliefs and to, well, take things so far? (I’m not automatically going to assume that everyone here knows about Jonestown). I was hoping for some sort of exploration of this subject but we really don’t get this at all. Oh, the sister joined as “Father” helped get her off drugs. Really? That’s it? That provides zero explanation for her actions in the movie. It’s just a shame as it’s one hell of a topic but it’s simply used just to make a horror movie & fill cinema seats. It could’ve been so much more but ended up rather shallow. I don’t know… It’s not a “bad” movie but feels a little odd as it actually IS a true story. And 1978 wasn’t really all that long ago, either, so the movie somewhat feels to be in slightly poor taste.

My Rating: 5.5/10

**The best thing about this movie was the use of the fantastic song Heartbeats by The Knife. Although its use felt out of place & was rather jarring… I think Ti West just really liked the song & decided he’d stick it into his next movie whether it fit or not! It’s a great song.

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You’re Next (2011) Review (Yeah – the current horror film)

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You’re Next (2011?? What? Apparently so… Looks like it spent a couple years at film festivals first)

Directed by Adam Wingard

Starring:
Sharni Vinson
Nicholas Tucci
Wendy Glenn
A. J. Bowen
Joe Swanberg
Barbara Crampton
Rob Moran
Ti West

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

The Davison family gathers at a remote house in the woods (as you do) to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of their parents. While celebrating, the family is attacked by a gang of masked invaders.

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My Opinion:

It’s been too long since I’ve gone to a movie (like, a month!). After spending the past couple of days catching up on reading all the blogs here, I read loads of extremely positive reviews for You’re Next (plus one blogger who hated it). So, even though I’m not really a modern horror fan and a massive wuss about gore, I said what the hell as it’s only 95 minutes long and went to it.

Now, I’m just back from this and still trying to collect my thoughts but figure I should get this review out there quick otherwise I’ll never get around to it. Normally I like to think about the film for a day or two. I’m not entirely sure yet how I feel about it. I think there are some good things about it but I was disappointed that there wasn’t even more dark humor than there actually was – from the reviews I read I thought there’d be a little more of that. What there was, I enjoyed (especially at the end).

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I liked that there’s a strong female lead. I get bored with women in horror movies seeming to only be there to flash their tits and then die horribly. I suppose I liked some of the more “inventive” deaths but, not being a fan of gore or slasher flicks (other than the cheesy 70s & 80s ones), it was a bit hard to watch. And I didn’t exactly watch the screen the whole time! So… I suppose I’m not actually the best judge on just HOW gory it got. Certainly sounded rather, um… Juicy at times! Okay – I think it’ll be easier to just break this one down into what I liked and didn’t like so much…

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What I liked:

– Like I said, a strong female lead who isn’t just there to show us her boobs.

– Some inventive deaths although really too violent for this wuss.

– Barbara Crampton played the mom. And she’s aged really well. The chick from Re-Animator! And Chopping Mall, which I love but shouldn’t. That kind of horror is more my speed… And, um, The Young & The Restless! I used to watch it when I lived in America, okay?! So sue me. :-p

– The animal masks were pretty cool.

– The dark humor but I wished there’d been more .

– The fact that the guy who directed a movie I just happened to watch two nights ago (Ti West – The Innkeepers) is actually in this. (I love IMDB). FYI: I preferred The Innkeepers to this.

– The length. Maybe bad for a film-lover to admit but I think horrors & comedies don’t need to be much more than an hour and a half long.

– The music at the end. It was a bit… I don’t know. Reminded me of The Thing with a little bit of Dawn of the Dead? I know too little about movie music to continue this discussion – just thought it worked well at the end of the film.

– The second half. I thought it started out quite slow and took a fairly long time to get interesting. But it really picked up speed about halfway through.

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What I Didn’t Like So Much:

– Too violent.

– Not enough of the dark humor – more would have made this one better. I’m not talking Tucker And Dale Vs Evil levels of humor (I loved that one – and it gives me a chance to link to a review of mine, I guess! Review HERE). But there’s so little that it almost felt out of place.

– Felt a little pointless (PART 1). We’ve seen home invasion movies a lot and others have done it better. It felt like a pretty standard home invasion flick but with more gore. It will be and probably has been compared to The Strangers, which I thought was better in terms of suspense & creepiness. Also think I preferred the film Ils (Them). And (I’m going to get in big trouble for this one and have a bunch of you horror fans yelling at me) I liked The Purge better than You’re Next (I won’t go into full detail on that now – my review is HERE if you’re bothered). The Purge at least had a great concept even though it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been. You’re Next has an extremely simple concept we’ve already seen many times but its execution was better than that of The Purge. So I guess it depends on what you prefer from a film…

– Felt a little pointless (PART 2). As far as the violence… I don’t always get as into violent films like these when the people don’t seem THAT horrible but we have to watch them die in awful ways. Other bloggers have said the family is unlikeable so it’s fun watching them die but, aside from a brother who comes across as a prick, they don’t really seem deserving of the excessive violence. But that’s probably just me – I’m not a fan of all the torture porn that’s around these days. You’re Next doesn’t fall into that category but the violence feels a little unnecessary at times. Or… Pointless. Not that every film (and certainly not every horror film) NEEDS to have a point. But… I don’t know what I’m trying to say so I’ll sum this up now.

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Summary:

You’re Next is a pretty standard home invasion flick but with more gore, a couple inventive deaths, and a sprinkle of dark humor. Horror fans who love the more violent films of the genre will like this one. Luckily a strong female lead helps make up for some of the film’s weaknesses and the final half of the film is much stronger than what I thought was a pretty slow start. Overall I don’t think it’s a bad film – it’s a decent enough film for its genre but doesn’t feel as fresh & original as I was kind of expecting from the many reviews that I’d read. Maybe I’m just too picky these days?

My Rating: 6/10

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**I suppose I’ve not even mentioned the other horror film that’s received lots of praise this year too – The Conjuring. Much more my type of horror and I feel it’s more worthy of the praise it received. Review HERE.