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.

The House Of The Devil (2009) Review For Devil Week At The IPC

I’m re-posting my below review of Ti West’s The House Of The Devil for Devil Week at Isaacs Picture Conclusions. You can view all the participating reviews HERE. πŸ™‚

IMG_6887.JPG

The House Of The Devil (2009)

Directed by Ti West

Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, Dee Wallace

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.

IMG_7252.JPG

My Opinion:

Last October I watched my first Ti West movie for my Halloween Horror Fest (The Innkeepers – review HERE) and actually quite liked it so I’ve been meaning to check out The House Of The Devil ever since then. Hmm. I’ll say it’s very obvious it’s from the same director. I’m still not sure how I feel about Ti West but, based on the little I’ve seen, he clearly likes to use the same sort of template for his films. I was thinking about checking out his movie The Sacrament soon as well but was expecting it to be another movie where NOTHING happens for the first hour or so and then suddenly all hell breaks loose in the last 20 to 30 minutes (and Cara has just confirmed that this is indeed the case once again in her review of The Sacrament HERE). I like his style for the most part so far but can totally understand why a lot of people hate his movies. Be aware that if you watch The House Of The Devil it’s veeeeeeeery slow until, yes, all hell breaks loose in the final 20 minutes or so. Exactly like The Innkeepers.

IMG_7254.JPG

I’m struggling to think of what to say about this one and am still not completely sure how I feel about it. There were certain things I loved, like the opening credits in the photo above and the look & mood of the film and, of course, how it’s set in my beloved 1980s. My favorite scene is when the main girl, played by Jocelin Donahue, puts on her walkman and dances around to The Fixx (One Thing Leads To Another! Remember that song?? I’m so old…). Oh yeah – and the house is a pretty cool looking creepy old house as well.

IMG_7255.JPG

Dee Wallace has a small role, which is cool for us old horror fans. Also, Mary Woronov is in this who I was shocked to realize was the scientist in the underrated Night Of The Comet (which I recently reviewed HERE). Here she is – I can’t say I recognized her:

IMG_7251.JPG

I also really did like the main girl and thought she had the perfect look for this movie – it felt like West was going for a Margot Kidder/70’s actress type of look which helped to set the “Suspiria” mood, which I think he was also going for. I like and appreciate that as all my favorite horror films are from the 70’s & 80’s but, if I want to watch Suspiria, I’ll just watch that instead of a modern day copy.

IMG_7250.JPG

This is sounding a bit too negative. I was almost sort of loving this movie, actually, until the end. With The Innkeepers, I was a little bored until the final half hour which I thought was really good and saved the movie. I often complain that horror movies rarely know how to end but I found the ending of The Innkeepers pretty satisfying. However, the opposite is true of The House Of The Devil. I REALLY wanted to love it and things were going well as I was actually thoroughly enjoying that “Ti West thing where nothing happens for the first hour” but then the ending just didn’t quite work for me. This was pretty disappointing as I think I’d be raving about this movie if I’d been happy with the ending. I of course won’t spoil it so can’t go into what I didn’t like (there was only really one specific thing). Let’s just say I wish he’d kept it a little more simple and “classic”. And, although the absolute final scene didn’t bother me, I’m sure a lot of people hated it.

IMG_7253.JPG

Summary:

I think what I’m trying to say in a really long-winded way is this: I liked this movie (despite my negative-sounding review) but can totally understand why it’s not for everyone. I doubt anyone will go read my Innkeepers review now but I was much more positive in that one. However, although I think The Innkeepers is more “accessible” and is the one I’d be far more likely to recommend to people without worrying that they’d hate me for recommending it, I actually think The House Of The Devil is the better film of the two. Does that make sense?? That may be why I sound so disappointed. I think this movie had a lot of potential and I’d like to see a Ti West movie I can truly say I loved from start to finish. Maybe someday. This was so close at first…

My Rating: 7/10

IMG_7249.JPG

The House Of The Devil (2009) Review

IMG_6887.JPG

The House Of The Devil (2009)

Directed by Ti West

Starring:
Jocelin Donahue
Tom Noonan
Mary Woronov
Greta Gerwig
Lena Dunham
Dee Wallace

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.

IMG_7252.JPG

My Opinion:

Last October I watched my first Ti West movie for my Halloween Horror Fest (The Innkeepers – review HERE) and actually quite liked it so I’ve been meaning to check out The House Of The Devil ever since then. Hmm. I’ll say it’s very obvious it’s from the same director. I’m still not sure how I feel about Ti West but, based on the little I’ve seen, he clearly likes to use the same sort of template for his films. I was thinking about checking out his movie The Sacrament soon as well but was expecting it to be another movie where NOTHING happens for the first hour or so and then suddenly all hell breaks loose in the last 20 to 30 minutes (and Cara has just confirmed that this is indeed the case once again in her review of The Sacrament HERE). I like his style for the most part so far but can totally understand why a lot of people hate his movies. Be aware that if you watch The House Of The Devil it’s veeeeeeeery slow until, yes, all hell breaks loose in the final 20 minutes or so. Exactly like The Innkeepers.

IMG_7254.JPG

I’m struggling to think of what to say about this one and am still not completely sure how I feel about it. There were certain things I loved, like the opening credits in the photo above and the look & mood of the film and, of course, how it’s set in my beloved 1980s. My favorite scene is when the main girl, played by Jocelin Donahue, puts on her walkman and dances around to The Fixx (One Thing Leads To Another! Remember that song?? I’m so old…). Oh yeah – and the house is a pretty cool looking creepy old house as well.

IMG_7255.JPG

Dee Wallace has a small role, which is cool for us old horror fans. Also, Mary Woronov is in this who I was shocked to realize was the scientist in the underrated Night Of The Comet (which I recently reviewed HERE). Here she is – I can’t say I recognized her:

IMG_7251.JPG

I also really did like the main girl and thought she had the perfect look for this movie – it felt like West was going for a Margot Kidder/70’s actress type of look which helped to set the “Suspiria” mood, which I think he was also going for. I like and appreciate that as all my favorite horror films are from the 70’s & 80’s but, if I want to watch Suspiria, I’ll just watch that instead of a modern day copy.

IMG_7250.JPG

This is sounding a bit too negative. I was almost sort of loving this movie, actually, until the end. With The Innkeepers, I was a little bored until the final half hour which I thought was really good and saved the movie. I often complain that horror movies rarely know how to end but I found the ending of The Innkeepers pretty satisfying. However, the opposite is true of The House Of The Devil. I REALLY wanted to love it and things were going well as I was actually thoroughly enjoying that “Ti West thing where nothing happens for the first hour” but then the ending just didn’t quite work for me. This was pretty disappointing as I think I’d be raving about this movie if I’d been happy with the ending. I of course won’t spoil it so can’t go into what I didn’t like (there was only really one specific thing). Let’s just say I wish he’d kept it a little more simple and “classic”. And, although the absolute final scene didn’t bother me, I’m sure a lot of people hated it.

IMG_7253.JPG

Summary:

I think what I’m trying to say in a really long-winded way is this: I liked this movie (despite my negative-sounding review) but can totally understand why it’s not for everyone. I doubt anyone will go read my Innkeepers review now but I was much more positive in that one. However, although I think The Innkeepers is more “accessible” and is the one I’d be far more likely to recommend to people without worrying that they’d hate me for recommending it, I actually think The House Of The Devil is the better film of the two. Does that make sense?? That may be why I sound so disappointed. I think this movie had a lot of potential and I’d like to see a Ti West movie I can truly say I loved from start to finish. Maybe someday. This was so close at first…

My Rating: 7/10

IMG_7249.JPG

The Innkeepers (2011) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

20131025-012000 pm.jpg
The Innkeepers (2011)

Directed by Ti West

Starring:
Sara Paxton
Pat Healy
Kelly McGillis
Alison Bartlett
Jake Ryan
Lena Dunham
George Riddle
Brenda Cooney
John Speredakos

Running time: 101 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are two young employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a once-grand hotel that is about to close. Claire and Luke are the only employees working during its final weekend of operation. Both are ghost hunting enthusiasts and are fascinated by the hotel’s supposedly haunted history, which includes the legend of Madeline O’Malley, a bride who hung herself in the 1800s when her husband abandoned her on their honeymoon, and whose body was supposedly hidden in the basement by the hotel owners.
20131025-012408 pm.jpg
As I’m so far behind on my reviews for Halloween Horror Fest, I’ll keep this one short. I say that a lot but I mean it this time. πŸ˜‰

In the middle of watching this, I actually paused to look it up at The IPC to see if Eric had reviewed it. Yep! And he liked it. Yay! You can read his review HERE.
20131025-012717 pm.jpg
This really is one of those films that you’ll like or you’ll hate. I’ve seen enough reviews here now to know that people are divided on this one. Count me as one of the people who liked it.
20131025-012814 pm.jpg
If you like the slightly more old school movies about hauntings, you may like The Innkeepers. If you don’t mind a movie that (very) slowly builds up to the finale and doesn’t have loads of in-your-face predictable jump scares or gore, you may like The Innkeepers. If you like the likes of Saw, etc, you may not like The Innkeepers.
20131025-012900 pm.jpg
My all-time favorite horror movie (Or maybe second favorite – it’s close. I’ll know when I do the list of my top ten horror films soon!) is The Shining. I’m not one to get scared by a movie but The Shining is genuinely creepy. The Overlook Hotel itself is probably the creepiest thing about the film. The Yankee Pedlar Inn, while not as creepy as The Overlook, is still not a place where I’d want to spend the night. There are loads of old hotels like this in England and I had the bright idea to stay in one once. Dumb idea! I didn’t sleep a wink. Plus there was a door/hatch/whatever in the ceiling RIGHT above the bed. I stared at that thing all night thinking I’d see some red eyes peering out at me or something. So, yeah – a “haunted inn” movie is the type of movie for someone like me. It won’t be for everyone.
20131025-013021 pm.jpg
When it comes to horror movies, the one thing I can’t stand more than excessive and unnecessary gore is annoying & unlikeable characters who do stupid things. I can handle a bit of blood and there’s a bit at the end of The Innkeepers but nothing bad and not something I couldn’t watch.

Although the character of Luke is somewhat annoying, I found Claire very likeable. She’s sweet, naive, and a little dorky. She reminds me a little of me when I was young and used to actually still be sweet. Okay – you may say she “does some stupid things” but nothing I can’t forgive. I know what I’m like – although I’d be scared shitless working in a “haunted inn”, I know I’d go exploring things and trying to see the ghost. Because I’m an idiot. But then I’d shit myself and run away screaming like Claire does if I actually saw anything. (She doesn’t literally shit herself. Me neither). Claire feels like a “real” person and I like that – it makes it easier to buy into a movie when you can relate to at least one of the characters.

I also liked Kelly McGillis in the role of the retired actress turned psychic staying at the hotel and whom Claire turns to for help (Did I use “whom” correctly there? Always confused by that one!). I’ve always had a soft spot for McGillis since finding out she couldn’t stand Tom Cruise when filming Top Gun and that they used to do things to piss each other off on purpose.

I like how this film is almost a comedy at first and gets you knowing & liking the characters as they just stand around and talk a lot and discuss the inn’s creepy history because they find it fun & intriguing. But then the film changes & suddenly turns into a pretty seriously scary movie at the very end. I even found the ending to be satisfying, unlike so many other horror films. It comes full circle and it makes sense. Good stuff. I liked it. Don’t listen to the haters!
20131025-013107 pm.jpg
Summary:

The Innkeepers is a fairly tradtional “haunted inn” story that takes its time (REALLY takes its time…) letting us get to know and like the characters as we watch them do little more than talk to each other and discuss the inn’s history in the final weekend before it’s closed for good. The characters feel like real people who do slightly crazy things that real people would do. Things are pretty light & comedic until, finally, the ending turns into a pretty damn scary movie. Not for horror fans who only like a lot of in-your-face scares and loads of gore, The Innkeepers is more my type of “horror” movie.

My Rating: 7/10

20131025-013228 pm.jpg

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

20130902-125604 AM.jpg
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.

20130902-125704 AM.jpg
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).

20130902-125736 AM.jpg
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…

20130902-125817 AM.jpg
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.

20130902-125904 AM.jpg
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.

20130902-125938 AM.jpg
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

20130902-010003 AM.jpg
**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.