The Sacrament (2013)

the sacrament

“We all must take our drink.”

Scoop: 2013 R, directed by Ti West and starring Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, and Gene Jones

Tagline: Live as one. Die as one.

Summary Capsule: The Jonestown Massacre in drag.


Yeti’s rating: It will keep you up hours after watching… on a Wikipedia binge.

Yeti’s review: I am not a brave man. My only modes of transportation are ground based. Ever since Air Force One planes have been out of the question. Whenever I try a new delicacy, I have a heart attack. I just assume I’m allergic to whatever it is I’m trying, unknowingly eating my last meal. And finally, I’m unable to watch horror films. Well, unless you count The Amazing Spider-Man films. Shots fired! When I’m deciding what to Netflix on Friday night, it’s almost never a film of the scary persuasion. The same scenario happens time and time again.

“Hey! Netflix just added The Descent. I like cave diving. The actresses seem quite attractive, but that ‘attainable’ level of attractive. Maybe I’ll just scroll down a bit, see wha…. hey now. When did they add The Money Pit?!”

I go for The Money Pit every time. Calm down. I know what you’re thinking. “But Yeti, what do you watch during October, the ultimate horror month?”. It’s certainly a reasonable question. Let’s just say I get my share of scare. Off the top of my head I’ll list what I watched last October, leading up to Halloween. Here we go: Casper, Idle Hands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown I, II, and Halloween High (NOT Return to Halloweentown. They replaced Marnie), Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Witches, Hocus Pocus, The Addams Family, and the Halloween episode of Boy Meets World. Now that I think of it, October is one of the more joyous months of the year for me.

So you can imagine my… horror… when a friend of mine suggested I watch The Sacrament. We will call my friend “Dillman.”  Dillman is something of a horror savant. It’s his favorite film genre, he attends all of the conventions, and is obsessed with death. He’s a keeper all right. There are two reasons why I decided to take a chance on his recommendation. First, he introduced me to Eli Roth. Despite my cowardice, I fight my inner wuss and devour Eli Roth films. Dillman claims Cabin Fever is one of the greatest horror films of our time. I’ll go to my grave agreeing with him (mostly because it has Shawn Hunter), but also because he has a way about him. It’s hard to disagree with the guy. And second, the director seems to have some sort of affiliation with Eli Roth. I’ve never heard of Ti West (shocking), but if he has Eli Roth’s support, you have mine. Well, if you consider pirating your movie “support”.

The film starts with three journalists at a New York magazine. They explain that the one journalist has a sister who’s a recovering addict. She has recently joined a parish that moved to a remote location over seas. She sends her brother a note inviting him to check it out, and his boss decides to go with him, along with a camera man, to document what’s going on at Eden Parish. For those that were sickened by my mediocre summary, think Jonestown Massacre. If you’re aware of the details of the event then you won’t be surprised by what happens. It’s the Jonestown Massacre minus the government stuff. I had a limited knowledge of what happened before watching the film. All I knew was that a bunch of people joined a cult, Jim Jones was their crazy religious leader, moved to South America, hung out for a while, and then poisoned themselves. It turns out there was much more to it, but that’s an explanation for the layman like myself. The Sacrament portrays a fictional version of this.

Forgive my lack of technical know how when it comes to film. I love watching movies. Then I’ll babble about why. It may or may not make coherent sense. But when it comes to specifics. Woof. You should hear me during awards season. “Oh, yeah. The cinematography was incredible. Like, out of this world. The sound editing? Loved it. It sounded like they took their time in the editing room”. I’m full of malarkey.  But The Sacrament felt and looked well made. If it wasn’t for the unknown actors I wouldn’t have realized it was an indie flick. The whole film was in that documentary, “handy cam” type of view. For all you film snobs, I believe the term is “Cinéma vérité”. At least that’s what my roommate told me right now. Let’s take his word for it. Normally I’d rather take cold showers for a month than watch that style of film, but I was engrossed through the whole thing.

How many of our favorite actors have we found in cult movies? I brag about discovering Paul Rudd after I watched Wet Hot American Summer for the first time. What’s that? You’ve known him from Clueless way before I did? Oh, I found out about him late did I? Well you can keep your opinions to yourself. Regardless, it’s one of the perks about watching lesser known movies. I’m officially jumping on the Gene Jones bandwagon. His performance as Father, the Jim Jones figure, is chilling to the bone. He reminds me of Michael Parks from Kevin Smith’s fantastic Red State. Jones shines every minute he’s on the screen. There’s a spectacular scene between him and Sam (AJ Bowen) that takes place midway through the film. Father allows Sam to interview him for the magazine, but in front of the whole parish. The dialogue is entrancing, with great chemistry between Jones and Bowen. It’s the best part of the film. The crazy thing is…Jones has barely acted! According to IMDB, he’s worked since 2004, but nothing of major value. His biggest role was in No Country for Old Men (he was the gas station attendant who called heads). Well Gene Jones, welcome to Yeti”s “I’m hoping you get more work than previously” list.

I’m going to attempt to wrap this up, if only because I’m starting (starting?!) to ramble and I don’t know if there’s a limit to how much I can write. The last thing I need is to make enemies with Justin. Overall I really enjoyed The Sacrament. Obviously, my opinion is worthless. Dillman, as great a guy as he is, can never be trusted. So I was left to turn to my other friends and see what they thought. My other friends being the anonymous people of Reddit, of course. Here’s what they had to say:

  • “…Ti West made another lackluster film here. I still think House of the Devil is his only decent movie…” – Clearly not a fan
  • “…If you want real horror, go see a Jonestown documentary and listen to the Jonestown suicide tape…” – That sounds…depressing
  • “…Ti West and Eli Roth both write like what they are: rich kids trying to capture how “real people” speak to and treat one another…” – Son of a…

I’m just going to go ahead and agree with Dillman. According to Dillman and I, The Sacrament is the best movie we’ve seen this yea…wait a second. Was I about to call it the best movie I’ve seen this year? When I’ve already experienced The Lego Movie?! Oh boy. If I start calling Dillman “Father” you guys might need to rescue me.


  • Some similarities between the Jonestown Massacre and this fictional tragedy: parishioners handing “Please help us” notes to the visitors, a shootout at the airstrip, poisoned Kool-Aid.
  • Ti West wrote, directed, and edited the film. Talk about a triple threat. Mad props. Isn’t that what the kids say?
  • Speaking of editing, in this interview Ti West claims he had to cut 3-5 minutes out of the interview scene I talked about above. Can we pay extra to see that?
  • Vice is the magazine portrayed in the film. Ti West asked for permission before shooting. Obviously they gave him the O.K., but curious if West had to pay them. Or if they allowed it just for the exposure.
  • Apparently “found footage” is a genre of film now. I’d still put this in the horror category, but to each their own.

Groovy Quotes

Andre: [convulsing] Help me, mother… my mother, my sister, they are gone… poison… I ain’t goin’ to heaven. Don’t leave me! I ain’t goin’ to heaven!

Father: We were doing something great down here. We were gonna change the world. This was only the beginning. Why couldn’t you leave us alone? What harm were we doing down here?

Caroline: He’s the guy that started all this. He’s the reason I’m still alive. He’s the reason that all of us are here.

Father: I love these people here as much as you love your wife and unborn chlid. And when you write this up for your readers I want you to remember that. These people are my family, my children.

Father: Remember what you’re seeing tonight Sam. You have a great responsibility. I hope you’re aware of it.

Sam: Maybe New York’s made me soft but, these are the moments every time we make these things where I realize it might of been the worst idea ever.

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