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03 Jul 2014

Home Video Review: 'The Sacrament' Is a Sloppy Fictionalized Riff on the Jonestown Massacre

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Gene Jones, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg in The Sacrament. Gene Jones, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg in The Sacrament.

The Sacrament is a sloppy, “found footage” riff on the Jonestown Massacre. No, it’s not a total retelling of the 1978 Jim Jones/Jonestown horror, in which more than 900 people died after drinking a poisoned fruit drink in an act of mass suicide. It’s a film “inspired” by those true events, and placed in a modern setting.

As for the quality of the movie, it’s somewhere in the middle of the found-footage movie pack. It’s not terrible … but it’s pretty bad. The setup has a news team heading for a remote, unknown location after Patrick (Kentucker Audley) gets an invite from his sister, Caroline (Amy Seimetz), who lives at the compound. (Hey, that’s why they will be carrying cameras at all times!) The team also includes head reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg).

As soon as they approach the gates of the kooky compound, called Eden, they are greeted with hostility and machine guns. This is normally the point at which most dudes would say, “Screw this!” just before heading back to the helicopter, but there’s a stupid movie to had, so they follow Caroline into further weirdness.

The compound is run by a mysterious, zealot figure called Father (Gene Jones). Father agrees to be interviewed by Sam at a big party held in the news team’s honor. The interview doesn’t go well, and things start to deteriorate quickly.

Father then orders a mass suicide, because he feels threatened by the news team he invited to visit.

Things happen too fast in this movie. The parallel with Jonestown case is undeniable, and the way the tragedy is depicted here comes off as shallow and sloppy.

The Sacrament is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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