One of my more anticipated titles this TIFF was Ti West's newest film, The Sacrament.
Two journalists document their photographer friend as he reunites with his sister, who resides in a mysterious religious community.
Ti West has crafted an exceptional thriller here. I'm very glad I'd heard almost nothing about this film going in – for all I knew it was something along the lines of the VHS 2 segment “Safe Haven” – as it was certainly advantageous to have the story unfold organically. West has always been very good with the “slow burn”, but this was the best he has ever handled story escalation.
As with previous films, he employed the talents of some of the most naturalistic actors working today, including AJ Bowen, Amy Seimitz and Joe Swanberg. West's choice to have the reporters be from a real-life publication – VICE Media – further added to the immersion of the piece. Stepping through the gates of Eden Parish, I believed I was right there with them. And after speaking with some of the parishioners, it was not hard to see why they would want to live there. The real lynch pin of the film though, was Gene Jones as the commune's leader, The Father. He oozed charisma, and has the most rapturous monologue I've seen since Michael Parks' performance in 2011's Red State.
|AJ Bowen in The Sacrament.|
I now feel bad that I've spent the last few days harping on the “found footage” format because then West comes along and uses it to its full potential. He was able to make it so engaging that I didn't even care about the usual 'whos-shooting-that-angle' trappings of the device. West does not shy away from the ugliness of the situation, uncompromisingly showing you things that will not easily be forgotten.
|Director Ti West.|
After West's embarrassing ABC's of Death contribution last year, I feel he has completely redeemed himself, as The Sacrament is top-to-bottom solid. West has shown an interest in moving away from the genre, and I believe now there is no reason for him not to. He has clearly mastered character, form and narrative, so going forward I would hope that he is allowed to expand as far as he wishes to go.