I tend to be very critical of most modern horror films.Especially ones made by American filmmakers.I’m especially not the most enthusiastic about viewing a film when Eli Roth has his name attached to the credits.I feel as a filmmaker Roth is hack,he lacks creativity and vision, and I have yet to see a film of his I enjoy.
Luckily, one breath of fresh air in the American horror community has been Ti West.I sat down with his 2013 film The Sacrament this past weekend.Not only was I greatly impressed, I feel it’s one of the best modern horror films to come out in the past 5 years.Although Roth helped produce the picture, I firmly believe it’s West’ vision that makes this film the suspenseful thriller that it is.Somewhat of a “Found Footage” film, It’s based around a group of documentary filmmakers entering a religious compound to track down en estranged family member.Told in pseudo documentary fashion, It even claims to be a production from VICE.Who are currently making some of the most cutting edge documentary films today.
As far as the overall structure of the plot it’s definitely not original.It borrows very heavily from the JonesTown mass suicide of 1978.The leader of the religious group is even referred to by his followers as “Father”, Just like Jim Jones.However, Unlike films based on the rise and fall of The People Temple, such as Guyana:Cult Of The Damned, this film takes a bright and creative new approach.We have always heard eyewitness accounts from survivors of what happened in Jonestown.The audio of Jones’ speech from the infamous mass suicide was even recorded and can be easily found.But what if a documentary film crew were present during the final days of the cults existence? There was a NBC film crew present during a visit from congressman Lee O’Ryan, but they only captured the superficial side of Jonestown on film.This film poses the thought of what an objective filmmaker would give us: a chilling narrative of Darwinism in its purest form.Many elements from the original story are there; The shooting at the airstrip that was accidentally caught on film, The several defectors trying to escape with a camera crew from NBC news, and even dialogue very similar to Jones’ final message to his followers.
On a personal note, I’ve always had somewhat of a morbid fascination with Jim Jones.One human being with charisma alone led over 900 people to their deaths.So having many of the elements play out on screen really adds to the dark atmosphere of the film.I also feel that a good amount of average movie-goers might not be familiar with the whole Jonestown back story.This is another case of “Art Imitating Life”, and being done exceptionally well I might add.
The story even moves at a very suspenseful pace.At this time in my life, I’m not scared that much anymore by seeing a film.It’s becoming more and more difficult to “shock” me.I’m not going to lie;I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish.I found myself literally glued to my television.Films such as The Last Exorcism really tried to accomplish what this film does, and ended up falling short and missing the mark.This film not even hit the mark, It raised it and set a brand new standard.
Congratulations Eli Roth, Your name is finally attached to something I can completely get behind.