"Overcome by an Evil Non-Christian Cult"
What You Need To Know:
THE SACRAMENT gets unbelievably intense and suspenseful when pandemonium breaks out in the second half. Thus, THE SACRAMENT is a wild, sometimes fascinating ride. However, it’s definitely for adults only, because the strong foul language and violence gets too extreme. Also, the reporters try to rescue the cult’s victims but fail. Ultimately, THE SACRAMENT is unacceptable viewing, despite some positive moral elements.
(B, C, FRFR, LLL, VVV, S, DD, M) Light moral worldview where two journalists try to save people from a deadly Non-Christian Jonestown-like cult in South America, but they mostly fail, some undeveloped positive references to Christianity in comparison to the cult, which is recognized as false and truly evil, plus some references to false religious ideas in making that contrast, but not theologically or biblically rebuked in a way that would provide any truly useful insights; at least 91 obscenities and profanities (including many “f” words and several strong profanities); very strong violence, especially in the second half, when hundreds of people drinking poisoned Kool-Aid and writhe as they die in agony, guards shoot at escapees with rifles and machine guns, guard shoots a mother and her young daughter off screen, but movie shows the bloody aftermath, mother cuts her daughter’s arms with a knife after she dies from the gunshot, a top female cult member sets herself on fire to die, helicopter pilot shot in chest and nearly dies from his bloody wound; no sex shown, but discussions indicate one of the reporters was set up with two other religious cult women for a threesome intended to lure him into the cult, and it’s also implied and discussed that cult leader may be fornicating with a number of women in the cult; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking but it’s shown that massive amounts of drugs are poured into Kool-Aid to kill cult members; and, people forced to do things against their will but implicitly rebuked if not overtly so, deceit, cult leaders twist the truth, protagonists fail to save people, including person they came to save.
THE SACRAMENT is a fake horror documentary clearly based on the Jonestown cult massacre of the late 1970s, and seen through the eyes of a TV crew from the real-life news series “Vice.” THE SACRAMENT has a disturbing tone but there’s a light moral worldview where two journalists try to save some of the cult members though they fail. The foul language and violence is extreme, however, especially in the movie’s second half.
The movie follows a fictional crew and reporters from the HBO documentary series “Vice,” as they go to visit a compound called “Eden’s Parish” in South America. One of the reporters was invited to visit by his sister, who’s become a major leader in the compound.
At first, the residents seem happy despite giving up all normal worldly trappings and communication abilities. The reporters manage to convince the cult leader, Father, to let them interview him on camera at a church meeting the first night.
However, when the interview turns sour because of the reporter’s probing questions, the cracks in the façade of the happy camp and its campers start to show. Over the next day, Father becomes paranoid and tries to throw the reporters out of the compound. Then, many of the seemingly happy residents beg to be taken away with the reporters on their helicopter, and things go from bad to worse in a hurry. This leads the cult leader to order his followers to drink Kool-Aid laced with poison because he wants everyone to die rather than his evil cult be exposed to the world.
As this final stretch of pandemonium occurs, the movie is unbelievably intense in its suspense and atmosphere. However, the language gets fairly profane as the characters are running for their lives.
Writer-director Ti West continues his string of well-made, alternative-style horror movies (THE LIGHTKEEPERS, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL), which are re-teaching the horror movie industry how to get better scares out of small budgets. He relies on genuine suspense more than blood and guts, although there are more gruesome deaths and injuries here than his prior films.
THE SACRAMENT makes it clear that it is not mocking Christianity as a whole, but rather telling the story of a specific cult and rogue leader. The parallels to Jonestown and the David Koresh compound raid disaster in Waco in 1993 are fascinating, and offer a reminder that anyone can mislead the masses in a society where people can feel like outsiders at any time.
Overall, THE SACRAMENT is a wild, sometimes fascinating ride. However, it’s definitely made for adult eyes only. Also, the foul language and violence gets too extreme. Finally, the reporters try to rescue the cult’s victims but they end up failing. So, MOVIEGUIDE® ultimately finds THE SACRAMENT unacceptable, despite some positive moral elements.