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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Sacrament07:11 PM -- Mon October 30, 2017

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Sacrament (2013)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A news team trails a man as he travels into the world of Eden Parish to find his missing sister, where it becomes apparent that this paradise may not be as it seems.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% critics, 47% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: We watched The Sacrament last night. How did you settle on that movie for our second-to-last horror movie of the month?

Mikey: It was a tough call. But it was on some of those “best of” lists, and the core idea for me was that it was a high-end version of found footage. A known director/writer (Ti West, who did The House Of The Devil which I did a video review of), and some money behind it. Not your normal found footage. I hope we don’t have to have especially brilliant choices for our last couple, that’s too much pressure!

Solee: I don’t have to … but I think we might accidentally end up with some pretty decent films. This is what happens when we let Best Of lists influence our choices! So the premise here is that VICE is recording footage to create a documentary about a potential cult that the photographer’s sister has joined. Did it “work” as a found footage movie for you?

Mikey: What I found interesting about it is that it is not a mockumentary. It kinda starts out as one, but what you see throughout the movie is the raw footage these guys are filming in the course of making a documentary. As opposed to formatting this movie as if it were the finished product. I’m not sure if that’s better or not, but it does make good sense, and solves the whole “why are they filming” dilemma very easily. And they definitely seemed like the real deal, although they may not have been making the most brilliant choices. Well, the real deal except for how they were “speechless for an hour” when the guy told them his sister had joined a cult. That’s a lot of speechless.

Solee: Yeah … I don’t believe any of those guys could be speechless about anything for more than 30 seconds. They spent a lot of time talking to the camera, which is to be expected, I guess. While we were watching, you mentioned an episode of Reply All where a couple of guys go to India trying to chase down a telemarketing scam. It kind of boggles my mind that there are people who see this kind of sketchy, questionable behavior (scams, cults, etc) and their first response is “I have to get myself right in the middle of that even though I have no power or authority in any way!” Would you ever consider doing what they did?

Mikey: Nope. The Reply All episode was fascinating because I could see just how far they could get without any authority, by simply being pushy and having it be known that they were “journalists” - meaning whoever they talked to knew that they would spread information they learned to the world. It really is a lot of power to just say that. Of course it’s also potential reason to kill you. Or your entire own cult, in this case. It’s pretty amazing what these people do in the real world, and it definitely takes more guts than my abdomen contains.

Of course, that was a problem I had with this particular cult. What they were doing was actually totally fine. Like super duper fine. People getting together to live in a commune, and not hurt anybody. If they just dropped the paranoia part of it - get rid of the guards, let anybody leave if they want - then what would the government care about it? Enjoy your commune. I feel like Father created his own trouble, and it is quite possible he is not the genius that Caroline thought he was.

Solee: At the very least, he was not at all confident in the fact that people REALLY want to live that way. I think that’s a valid concern--that if he let people leave, they would--because people are not great at committing to big change or sacrifice long term. And if people get to leave, they’d want to take their money with them. I think it was all about the money for Father. He had convinced these people to give him all their worldly possessions and do manual labor for him, so that he and Caroline, who was apparently sleeping with him, could have all the control and break their arbitrary rules. That kind of thing would get out, even as rumor, if people were allowed to leave and then they’d have a harder time convincing new people to hand over all their cash and pick up a hoe.

Mikey: Doesn’t seem that expensive to run such a commune to me, plant some plants. But I’m not sure it was all about money for Father, or he would’ve (as I had kept hoping to see) skipped town with the money and Caroline as soon as everybody had had their Kool-Aid. I was actually surprised he was serious about this stuff.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not convinced he was really all that serious about it. He SAYS that’s why he offed himself, but I definitely got an “I won’t go to jail” vibe instead of an “I must follow my flock” vibe. He knew the jig was up.

Mikey: That makes sense. But it brings up my biggest issue: As soon as he felt there was a whiff of trouble - these documentarians might make the government come down on him at some unspecified future point - everybody gotta die. I mean, dude, wait until the helicopters show up at least. It could easily be years! Although personally, I’d rather get shot than die from poison Kool-Aid, so I’d stick it out.

Solee: He was jumping the gun (the one held by hired guards who didn’t give a crap about any of this nonsense). I’m surprised this was the first time anyone thought to be suspicious. I wonder if Caroline was the first wealthy person to get suckered in. The first one who had people with the curiosity and resources to come looking for her.

Mikey: No wonder she got the special spot! They probably should’ve just turned them away at the gate.

Solee: Yeah...but after what I heard from that Reply All podcast, that would not have deterred these journalists for long! It was definitely all about the money (and how the money was important to keep her “family” growing) for Caroline. She killed her own brother because he wouldn’t agree to join her and--more importantly--contribute his wealth to the flock. That girl was not in a stable mental place.

Mikey: So all this talk about what somebody would and wouldn’t do, and what their mindset was, brings to mind the fact that this is obviously very much based on the real massacre at Jonestown (warning: true news, really disturbing and graphic account of horrible events). And to put it bluntly, I’d much rather have watched a real documentary about that than this fictional story. I don’t know too much about it beyond Kool-Aid (except I do know that isn’t the actual brand they used!), and the real thing would be very interesting. I feel like I wasted my time watching this instead. Did you feel like this was a worthwhile endeavor?

Solee: I don’t regret watching it … it was well done and had tension that kept me interested. I wouldn’t call it the best movie ever or anything. I’m not sure I could handle watching a documentary like that about Jonestown. My brain has very different reactions to things that are make-believe vs reporting of actual events that have really happened to really real people. I can find the slaughter fests of Rob Zombie’s imagination quite entertaining but I don’t EVER watch True Crime stuff. It’s just a step too close to think about the actual people who experienced that kind of trauma. I see what you mean though. The story of Jonestown can be a learning experience, whereas this movie was pretty much just voyeuristic.

Mikey: Yes, the learning experience and just the reality of it. I don’t want to see the real bodies laying around, but I do want to see interviews and information about what people were thinking. I feel like the events in this movie weren’t very interesting. There was no big twist, no exciting moments really. Even when they were being hunted by guys with guns, it just felt kind of blah. Whereas even if the story of real Jonestown is much more boring in terms of actual events, it’s way more interesting by virtue of being real. Although, shocking twist, I’ve actually heard it is a lot more interesting as well!

Solee: Huh. I don’t know much about Jonestown. One of those Really Sad Things that I have kind of avoided learning too much about. Slight change of topic … I read on IMDB that there was a different ending originally proposed. In that ending, the helicopter pilot doesn’t get shot. As he flies them out, he says something about “following the Father’s orders” and crashes the chopper. Would changing the ending change much for you?

Mikey: I’m always in favor of a twist! That’s what was really lacking. Everything happened in real basic fashion. I can’t believe the pilot was still alive. Those guards are not good at their jobs. And that would’ve certainly put those survivors in a pickle if he hadn’t been. I don’t know, I feel let down by this movie in a way that’s hard to describe. I think this story could be done in a very unsettling and intense way, but that they didn’t do it. Hiding under a bed while a guard comes in and searches the room is a very tense concept, but I didn’t feel nervous at all during that scene. Also the fakey throat-slitting in that scene should’ve been pretty crazy too, but again, I was like oh, okay, she’s dead. Maybe I need to go join a cult to rediscover my inner child. Did you get the good tension the movie wanted to throw our way?

Solee: No, I agree with you. The overall premise of the story was anxiety producing for me, but the way it was told didn’t really make the most of the events. They seemed to rely a lot on shock value (OMG! She slit her throat! … OMG! She lit herself on fire!) instead of storytelling technique to put the audience on edge. That seems a little lazy to me.

Mikey: Yeah, I get that for sure. Which is weird in a movie about a mass suicide - something that is more disturbing than shocking. Like the core of the whole movie is this big event full of dread which does not jump out and shock you, so why are they trying to get you with ‘shock’ moments all the time? I guess they’re mixing it up. So, I suppose our time here is done, and we must give out our ratings. M’lady?

Solee: Like I said earlier, it wasn’t a terrible movie and I don’t regret watching it. Honestly, I didn’t notice the problems you mentioned until you brought them up. That doesn’t mean the problems weren’t there, but it makes me think this is a decent enough movie to distract from the bigger flaws if you’re not looking too closely. I guess that means I’m going to go middle of the road and give it a 3. What about you?

Mikey: Unsurprisingly, I go lower. I did stay invested in the movie throughout, but it was all too low-key. I never got that big hook or great tension to really suck me in. And I am throwing in extra minus for the fact that it’s a less interesting version of a real thing. They could’ve made something original that was bad, but instead they took something real and did a worse job of it than reality did. So I mark them down for wasting celluloid. Or probably hard drive space, more likely. Which leaves us at a 2 out of 5. Not a disaster by any means, but just not worth it to me. Your time would be better spent outside of this particular cult.

Solee: I suspect that statement is true in a lot of cases.

SO. It’s my job to pick the very last movie of the month now. I don’t know what to do!! Do I want to go funny? Or artistic? Or straight up slasher? There are still so many good choices on our list.

Mikey: And more deliciously, BAD choices! The real horror is that you have to choose.

Solee: Truth. I’m going to go back to some of my horror roots and pick Blair Witch (2016), the sequel to the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Mikey: That’s some classic Hommel, because I’ve previously reviewed both The Blair Witch Project, AND Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2! Let’s do it!
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