Even though Ti West has quite the cult following in the horror scene, I can't say I'm a pretty big fan. He's part of a tight-nit group of actors/directors, including Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen en Adam Wingard (You're Next, VHS 2, A Horrible Way To Die, Pop Skull), but their output is fickle and when they come together there's a certain in-crowd vibe that tends to set back their films.
The Sacrament could've been like that. With West in the director's chair and Swanberg/Bowen taking up the leads, I didn't expect a whole lot from this film. But things turned out differently. While it doesn't live up to its full potential, The Sacrament is definitely a solid horror flick and by far the best thing West has ever directed.
At heart a faux documentary, Swanberg and Bowen set out to Africa to recover the sister of Alex. Alex' sister ended up in Eden Parish, a community/sect for people who've vowed to live their lives in peace. When they arrive the place looks like hippy paradise, but soon the first cracks start to appear. When they meet up with the leader of the parish, things take a turn for the worse.
The Sacrament isn't all that different from other cult/sect horror films, but West takes his time to provide a solid build-up, which pays off double later on. Swanberg isn't the best of actors but he does a decent job here, Bowen is better as the lead of the group. But it's Gene Jones who deserves most of the credit for his role as leader of the parish. His character is hard to read, enigmatic and creepy, adding some much-needed realism to the story. While it's clear from the start where West is taking his audience, Jones succeeds in spreading some doubt halfway through the film.
The documentary-style falls flat near the end (and it doesn't seem all too consistent either), but apart from that The Sacrament is a disturbing, creepy little film that, at least in part, restored my faith in West's skills. It seems that after some goofing around these guys are finally getting their act together again. Still nothing that could match a film like Wingard's Pop Skull, but The Sacrament is a solid horror flick with a strong build-up and a nasty ending which fans of sects and occult communities will be sure to appreciate.