The Sacrament (2013)

June 9th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Writer/Director: Ti West

Cast: Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, A J Bowen, Gene Jones

US Found Footage Indie Thriller

The found-footage era seems to be nearing an end in its ability to import serious thrills to contemporary audiences. Ever since The Blair Witch Project succeeding in purveying an ambience of genuine and sustained terror to unsuspecting collective spines, the genre has increasingly required the kind of suspension of disbelief akin to that of the second coming of Jesus.

And Ti West’s The Sacrament is another example. Throughout the screening in Venice last year, my belief was suspended not out of shock or horror but genuine incredulity that people would find this sort of nonsense believable, in any shape or form. The mere fact that the footage is ‘found’ means that the collaborators are alive and well and enjoying the fruits of their labours so, by its very nature, this presents a foregone conclusion to the intelligent art house cinema-goer.

In The Sacrament three New York documentary makers become embroiled when they explore a ‘Moonie’ style ‘religious’ commune where the egregious presence of Father (Gene Jones) holds omnipotent sway over the proceedings. But the problem here is that West’s signature slow-burning narrative skills start to wear thin once its dawns that this is just another cliché-ridden swamp of ‘what-ifs’, albeit one filmed in the remote and atmospheric reaches of sweltering Savannah, Georgia by an excellent ensemble cast. MT


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