In 1983, financially struggling 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, putting her life in mortal danger.
Two best friends see their trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one of them is struck by a mysterious affliction. Now, in a foreign land, they race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely.
An investigation into a government cover-up leads to a network of abandoned train tunnels deep beneath the heart of Sydney. As a journalist and her crew hunt for the story it quickly becomes clear the story is hunting them.
Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student's disappearance.
The journalist Patrick works at the VICE, a company dedicated to cover bizarre news. When his sister Caroline joins a community, she travels abroad with her new family. Out of the blue, Caroline invites her brother to visit her in an undefined country and Patrick travels by helicopter with his friends Jake and Sam that work with him at VICE. They find weird that the men that have come to guide them to the Eden Parish have guns. On the arrival to the camp, Patrick, Sam and Jake find a community of happy people that worship Father. They interview Father but soon they realize that people are not as happy as they seem to be. Further, they find that they are trapped in the Parish Eden and they want to leave the place with the newcomers. But the Father does not have intention to let them go.
If The Sacrament has anything going for it, it would be how much the filmmakers accomplished with such a small budget. The colony is a worthy achievement; a lot of time and effort has been put into constructing the huts and various buildings. The isolation of the colony and the complacency of its inhabitants effectively establishes an eerie vibe and these are the main reasons why the first half of the film is the strongest. What tension there is builds slowly, and your time isn't wasted with jump scares and cheap thrills. Also, I appreciate, despite the fact that this is a found-footage film, that the camera isn't too shaky.
As a whole, unfortunately, The Sacrament is ultimately ineffective as a horror/thriller film. Ti West and company have derived a lot of inspiration from the Jonesville mass suicide in 1978, and this ends up being a negative contribution to the film. I have watched harrowing TV documentaries regarding this truly horrifying moment in human history, but The Sacrament is simply as predictable as any routine horror film. I made the Jim Jones connection very early on. The appearance of Gene Jones as "Father" only confirmed this connection, though Jones is definitely a wonderful member of the cast and I applaud the filmmakers for tracking him down.
I'm sure that there was a way to make this work. But the resemblances to Jonesville render the film practically unnecessary; I knew exactly what was going to happen. I understand that the film was based on a very disturbing event, but that doesn't give it a free pass. From a historic point of view, this is an interesting representation of Jim Jones' cult. But from a creative point of view, the film is ultimately an hour of slow -building tension with a restrained payoff. A good twist or perhaps taking the Jonesville concept in a unique direction would have given this a few more stars from me.
In conclusion, I recommend this for people who have never heard of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. For everyone else, I can't say the same.
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