I have a love/hate relationship with Ti West movies. No doubt he is a talented writer/director that put out some of the best horror in the past decade (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Roost). I also think he has either been built up too much and can’t live up to expectations (Second Honeymoon) or is just plain disappointing sometimes (M is for Miscarriage). So despite being excited I was somewhat cautious going into The Sacrament. This is why I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised with The Sacrament.
The film stars Ti West mainstays AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg as Sam and Jake. Working for Vice they specialize in looking at subcultures usually avoided by the mainstream media. This makes them perfect to document Patrick who has recently gotten a letter from his sister who is living on a commune in South America. Despite the machine gun wielding guards the self-sufficient community seems ideal. As the reporters dig deeper they discover that things may not be as perfect as they thought under the watch of “Father.”
To me the biggest surprise was that The Sacrament wasn’t a horror movie. Well at least in the traditional sense. This is more of an examination of a brain washing cult which, in itself, is pretty damn horrifying. Like his other movies Ti West is able to get some very natural and real performances out of his leads. Performances that flesh out and really make you feel for his leads and even supporting cast. I also think that unlike some of his past efforts the ending delivers. The only problem I can see people having is the often overused cinéma vérité being used. But even then I think the common pitfalls of using the found footage style are avoided and make sense within the movie.
Going into The Sacrament I was expecting a traditional horror movie. What I got instead was a perfectly executed thriller that kept me rapt with attention from beginning to end.
As the crowd packed with genre and non-genre fans alike I was oddly anxious about Oculus. Then came the moment I knew something special was going to happen. The one thing that signaled this movie would be something different; nobody laughed at the WWE Films logo. Every other time I had seen a movie they distributed there was at least a chuckle but nothing here. Was this was a good omen for the movie?
Based on Mike Flanagan’s short of the same name the film follows Tim and Kaylie, siblings reunited after a decade of being apart. After release from a psychiatric hospital Tim hopes to start a new life while Kaylie has other plans. For Kaylie the first order of business is to destroy the 300 year old mirror that killed her parents. Despite having every angle covered the brother and sister duo might not be able to face whatever is in the mirror or their own past.
It’s easy to question the plot when it could be mistaken for another sequel to Mirrors. Luckily this movie has two big things going for it; the storytelling and the actors. The child acting in particular is surprisingly good. Carrying a good portion of the acting throughout they more than hold their own. That isn’t to say the rest of the cast isn’t good. In a rare turn Katee Sackhoff plays a more vulnerable character as the mother and she does good in the role. The other huge positive is the way the movie is presented. It would have been easy to play the whole movie as a straight ghost story. Instead Flanagan brings up the idea that there is no ghost and this is all just hereditary psychosis. Throughout the movie this is played with and leaving you to wonder if the ghost is real. Time travel, for lack of a better term, is played with. We go from the past to the present with some beautifully shot transitions.
I hate to say it, I really do, but WWE Films finally delivered. I really enjoyed Oculus and I can’t say it enough. This is the first great mainstream horror movie of the year. Definitely a step up from Absentia and I can’t wait to see what writer/director Mike Flanagan does next.