The latest film from indie genre icon Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) sends frequent collaborators AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley on a harrowing journey into madness and messianic bloodshed.
Known for moody génre pieces (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), Ti West wades into the depths of religious fanaticism with his new film, The Sacrament.
Patrick (Kentucker Audley) is a fashion photographer. When his colleagues Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg, who also stars in Proxy in this year’s Vanguard program), correspondents for Vice magazine, catch wind of a letter he received from his estranged sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), they decide her story would be a great subject for a documentary — she's living in a "sober" commune at an unnamed location outside the United States.
The three set off for a visit. While Patrick reunites with his sister, Sam and Jake investigate why members of the isolated community have followed a mysterious leader they call Father off American soil. Understandably skeptical at first, the guys slowly come around to the group's utopian claims.
The Sacrament is West's powerful take on suicide cults, and it shows a deep understanding of the hold a leader can have over a trusting populace. The film's charismatic Father is a clear stand-in for the infamous Jim Jones, who led hundreds to a mass suicide at Jonestown in 1978.
Following up his atmospheric earlier films, West employs some familiar techniques here but takes it to the next level, teasing out beautifully naturalistic performances from his four leads (and long-time collaborators), and compelling documentary-style realism from the hundred extras that make up the inhabitants of the commune.
The Sacrament will have you riding shotgun
with its ragtag crew on their journey
into madness and messianic bloodshed.