Man’s worst fear is the inability to control a given situation. And sure, you could assume I’m talking about life. One could make the case that we don’t control our lives. We leave it up to fate. Or destiny. That’s a scary, albeit exciting thought. I don’t believe that. We make choices every day that affect our lives. We, as people, as conscious living things, do that. No. To me, the most uncontrollable situation of all, is the opposite of life. It’s death. Dying. The Sacrament.
From the moment we’re born, we become a ticking clock. The same goes for our three main characters as they enter Eden Parish. Armed guards? Check. No cell phone service? Check. In the middle of fucking no where? Triple Check. They may not realize their lives are in danger, but there is building panic. With any new experience you’re going to feel uncomfortable. It’s new, not what you’re used to. Eden Parish certainly fits into that category. There’s no technology. One (rather pathetic) medical center that’s, oh by the way, supposed to aid over sixty seniors and a handful of infants. There has to be a point where you acknowledge how distressing the situation is. Jake said it best when he admits the parish would be a great place to take a month detox. But as a liveable society? It’s unsustainable.
This film reminded me of Kevin Smith’s Red State. And each time I came away thinking how dangerous faith can be. I’m not about to go on full rant mode, but I’ve always thought faith had more negatives than positives. If you weigh the positives and negatives of religious belief, I’ll argue the negatives (even if you think there are few) are so devastating, the positives aren’t worth it. And in The Sacrament you definitely witness that. But I think more importantly, and more dangerous, is the belief in man. Those poor people in Eden Parish weren’t corrupted by a god, or religion really, but a man. Father. He took advantage of them when they were in a dark place. Sure, he may have used religion as a tool, but it was just the hammer of the evil carpenter. Humans do horrible things. It’s proved itself true over thousand of years. And when you put your faith in a person, or worse, if groups of you put faith in them, terrible things can and have happened.
If I were a character in that story, would I have put my faith in Father? I’d like to think not. That’s the fun when watching horror films. And that’s where the terror comes from. Putting yourself in their shoes. What would you do in that situation? You’re stuck in the middle of no where. The man you call Father was quite persuasive years before and you committed to his vision. Now it’s months or years later and you’re stuck in a brainwashed community. If you bring up leaving you’ll certainly be beaten, killed even. Can you imagine having a gun pointed at your head and being forced to drink punch? What would you do? That’s horrifying. A situation that you have minimal to no control over. There’s a scene near the end (SPOILER ALERT) where a panicked mother knows she and her daughter will be gunned down in moments. Drunk with bewilderment, the mother slits the throat of her young daughter. What’s going on in her mind? Not the mother. The daughter. The fake blood and make up aren’t what bothered me. It’s being in that girl’s position knowing my mother is about to end my existence and I’m helpless to do anything. That’s what keeps me up at night.
I haven’t talked much about the film, in a technical sense at least. And that’s mostly because I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about most of the time. I am, remember, the man who claims Semi-Pro is better than The Big Lebowski. Come at me, bro! But in all seriousness, this was really well made. The camera style is a bit worn out in films(specifically horror), but they made it feel original. I appreciated the rotation between Jake and Patrick’s cameras. The acting, especially by the parish folk, was outstanding. It felt like a real documentary in that sense. They nailed the brainwashed townsfolk vibe. I would have no problem believing every one in that Eden Parish actually died. Our three journalists did a fine job carrying the film. The best scene was the interview. between Sam and Father. They had great chemistry with each other. And a hell of a job by Gene Jones. Where Michael Parks carried Red State, I think Gene Jones had an even better performance. He’s only been working for about ten years surprisingly (according to IMDB). This is my first glimpse of what Ti West can do. Needless to say I’m blown away. Also not shocking, he has some sort of affiliation with Eli Roth. These days, Eli Roth produces more content I enjoy than he directs. Promising start for Mr. West. I’m on the bandwagon. The West bandwagon!
Horror films are the most subjective of movies. Even more so than comedy. We all have different fears. The film still has to have quality content. Just because I have a fear of sharks does not mean I was frightened during Open Water. No, the filmmaker still has to put together a movie worth watching. But if you want to unease your viewer, if you want to have them in despair days after viewing, the content has to strike a chord. And I can firmly say, as a weak minded individual, who at times is looking for answers from wherever they may come, The Sacrament horrified me.