While attending a meeting in the smarmy studios of TMZ-like ‘Vice’, media photographer Patrick reveals to his editor that his drug addict sister recently achieved sobriety, quit the United States, and moved into a “sober commune” in an undisclosed location outside of America. Smelling a story, the editor sends Patrick and two members of his correspondence team to document the search for Patrick’s sister. After a bit of sleuthing, the trio is led to ‘Eden Parish’, a self-sustained commune with 200 members. Patrick’s sister welcomes them where they are greeted warmly and given testimonials about living in the seemingly rural utopia. At the heart of the commune is mysterious leader named ‘Father’. Following a day of interviewing selected denizens, the reporters are granted an interview with father who justifies the need for Eden Parish without really answering any of their questions. Later that night a little girl slips them a note that says, “Please help us”. What started off as a documentary turns into a race for their lives.
Ti West’s (‘House of the Devil’, ‘The Inkeepers’) latest is as solid as his two previous efforts. A stickler for realism and detail West will make you forget that you are watching fiction. Like his two previous efforts, West is masterful at building tension before everything goes to hell. Anyone old enough to be familiar with the Brian Jonestown Massacre knows exactly where this is headed and if I had one complaint it is that you already know the whole story from the moment it begins (hence my 3.5 rating). Also, the story offers no real profound insight into cult group-think.
Still, despite its predictability, this is a tense nail biter. The Sacrament was produced by Eli Roth (‘Hostel, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’) so we are given plenty of gore but nothing gratuitous. The ‘Father’ character is chilling in his ability to justify his cult noting with smooth Southern charm that America is full of poverty, violence and greed which are “the foundations of a cancerous society”. West shows how damaged individuals can be easily led with promises of protection from the evils of the world. What’s scarier than a Christian socialist community?