Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Review Rating: 6.5
News journalists from Vice magazine travel to an undisclosed location to take a look at the newfound life of the recovering-drug addict sister of one of them, at a place called Eden Parish, overseen by the charismatic man known as Father.
This is another Ti West movie, and there have been some films of his I rather liked and some that were…less than stellar. Even discovering that The Sacrament was a found footage film, which normally I can simply do without, wasn’t a deterrent in the beginning. The three guys going to check out Eden Parish are journalists and at least one of them is used to camerawork, so the entire film wasn’t covered in shaky-cam shots, I’m pleased to say. There are a few shots interspersed in the film that almost gave me a headache trying to watch, as the guys holding the camera are being chased or are hiding, and it’s perfectly understandable that the first-person POV camera shots are shifty and gritty; at least there was reason for them to be that way. So the found footage aspect of the film itself isn’t all that bad. But that honestly doesn’t help the story, and that is the main focus of our review here.
So Patrick (Kentucker Adley), he’s a reporter for Vice magazine and is concerned about his sister Caroline, a recovering drug addict. He receives a letter from Caroline (Amy Seimetz), inviting him out to this utopian community where she’s clean and off drugs, to come see the place that is her salvation. Patrick decides to go and take reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) with him, which immediately leads to issues, when they discover they have to be flown by helicopter to an undisclosed location and the armed guards at the entrance to Eden Parish take issue with the fact that there are three of them instead of just one. Already overtones of stuff-isn’t-right-here are setting in, and our trio haven’t even made it in the front door! But hey, Sam and Jake and Patrick make it inside and are greeted by Caroline, who hauls Patrick off for some brother bonding time, leaving Jake and Sam to their own investigative devices.
From here, I really wish I could say that Jake and Sam discover instances of ritual sacrifice, cannibalism or hell even tax fraud, but no. The Parish has a big ole party that our guys are invited to, with revival Baptist style singing and all, and Father (Gene Jones) sits down to what was supposed to be an in-depth interview in front of everyone, but turns out to be a rant about the corruption of the outside world and all Father has done to shield these people from it, here in Eden Parish. Sam is quite off-put over the fact that Father tried to turn the interview around on him and creeped out a tad by the whole thing. Father takes Caroline with him to his house when its time for bed and after a teeny tiny confrontation with a mother who wants our reporters to take her daughter away with them, all we’re left over the course of the night is an undefined sense of wrongness about Eden Parish until morning. But in the light of day, fully a third of the Parishioners have packed and want desperately to leave, and the rest of Eden’s folk are trying to stop them, by any means necessary. Our reporters are being hunted down by the guards with machine guns and Father has ordered that the Final Solution (with the kool-aid, I kid you not) be brought out and distributed amongst all the Parishioners. Father tries to explain to his flock that this Final Solution is all that’s left to them now, as the reporters bad influence will bring the law and executions down on all of them, and how it’s better to take that choice from them before they get here. And Father sits calmly down to watch his flock die in what is absolutely not like drifting off to sleep forever, as he promised them. Caroline decides to take matters literally into her own hands and, after offing her poor brother Patrick, douses herself in flammable liquids and bids a final flaming screw-you to the world. All we’re left with is cameraman Jake, who did manage to make it out despite the fact that the helicopter pilot took a bullet, and his filmed evidence of the massacre at Eden Parish.
Yes, the film manages to maintain a semi-creepy vibe throughout the entire thing, but that’s all we have, as far as real Horror. Honestly, it’s like watching a documented version of the Jonestown massacre with a few small changes, and that’s it. You know what they say, don’t drink the kool-aid!