The Sacrament Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

Ahead of Ti West’s new horror MaXXXine landing in cinemas, a timely (and lovingly put together) new Limited Edition of The Sacrament from those brilliant folks at Second Sight is coming to Blu-ray.

Produced by Eli Roth and initially released in 2013, The Sacrament trades less in outright horror and more in dread and that sinking feeling of despair when you realise you’re somewhere inherently wrong. After growing concerned about his in-recovery sister Caroline, fashion photographer Patrick receives a letter from her inviting him to visit her at the commune she now calls home, Eden Parish. Some research does little to quell his worries, so he ropes in the help of two of his friends at Vice, a news outlet specialising in the bizarre, who decide to come along and make a documentary about Eden Parish and its leader, The Father.

I’m not the biggest fan of the found footage format; the boom in the indie filmmaker-friendly style that started with The Blair Witch Project has seen almost every conceivable variation attempted, with wildly different results. Naturally, there’s the occasional exception: earlier this year, Late Night with the Devil did something different with the well-worn style to make one of the best horrors of the year.

Here, Ti West has the perfect reason to avoid the usually ultra-shaky, dimly lit shots that plague found-footage films. They’re making a documentary, so the to-camera pieces are well-staged with good lighting, and until everything goes into full panic mode in the third act, the camera shakes are kept to a minimum. Feeling a sustained level of uncomfortableness is (for me) far more effective than an endless combination of jump scares, sudden violence, or buckets of blood; I’m all for good bloodsoaked horror, but my thirty-plus years of watching the genre, I am frankly numb to most forms of gore in modern movies. I say that, but the foot scene in Ben Wheatley’s pandemic folk horror In The Earth made me gag and laugh, or it might have been dry-heaving; it’s a scene that’s difficult to unsee which is perhaps the most concise thing I can say about In The Earth.

The Sacrament has two gut-wrenching scenes that take you to the edge of your seat. The first is the interview with The Father, channelling some evil John Goodman vibes, and it quickly becomes clear that the film crew will not get the answers they wanted for their documentary as The Father steers the conversation.

Gene Jones gives a chilling performance as the seemingly loving leader of the commune. For the entire interview, there’s the sense that something is about to go off; you’re not sure what or when, but something awful is about to transpire. The Father’s responses are a selection of well-worn sermons, each greeted with nodding heads and agreement from his congregation. Each answer adds to the unease as it dawns on the film crew that they are in no way in control of this situation. It’s a masterfully crafted scene that serves as a warm-up for the utter nightmare fuel of the third act.

It’s inescapable that there are more than a few similarities to the real-life Jonestown Massacre. The events that took place with the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project remain a dark chapter in history, and it’s not one West exploits for cheap shocks or sensationalism.

This was West’s last horror before he took a break; he made the underrated western In The Valley of Violence and didn’t return to filmmaking until his double whammy of X and Pearl. Given the heavy subject matter of The Sacrament, it’s understandable that West wanted to change things up and take a break.

West is one of the most exciting filmmakers working in the horror genre today; unlike his fellow horror contemporaries like James Wann and Adam Wingard, West has resisted the temptation to shift and make big studio films. The day may come when we see Ti West’s name on a movie poster like Aquaman or Godzilla X Kong, but that day is not today.

More than a decade after its initial release, The Sacrament is still an uneasy and dread-filled experience that stays with you long after the credits roll. Jam-packed with brand-new special features,

The Sacrament Limited Edition is out now on Blu-ray.

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