The Sacrament Movie Poster Image

The Sacrament

(i)

 

Thriller from cult-fave director is uneven yet effective.
  • Review Date: June 3, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie has some interesting ideas about people working together and helping one another. It suggests that humans can live just fine without technology in the right circumstances.

Positive role models

The reporters try their best to help people, but they're frequently caught off guard and are mostly ineffective.

Violence

Guns are introduced early, and characters are shot and killed later in the film. Some blood is shown. Dozens of people die from drinking poison. Children and babies are given poison. A sister injects her brother with it. Anyone who doesn't die from the poison is shot. A woman's throat is sliced. A woman catches on fire. A man commits suicide by shooting his head off.

Sex

It's suggested that one character is having a threesome with two women, but nothing is shown.

Language

"F--k" and "s--t" are used several times. "Hell" is used, as is "idiot."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man briefly snorts cocaine, mostly off screen. Many characters are described as "drug addicts and alcoholics," though all are recovered and aren't shown using.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Sacrament is a found-footage thriller with horror overtones from cult horror director Ti West (The House of the DevilThe Innkeepers). Many horror fans will want to see it based on his name alone. Dozens of characters are shown dying from poison or shootings. There's some blood; necks are sliced, and a character commits suicide by shooting his head off. A woman catches on fire, and children and babies are given poison. Language-wise, "f--k" and "s--t" are heard several times. A character snorts cocaine, and though it's mostly off screen, it's clear what he's doing. Many characters are referred to as recovering alcoholics or drug addicts. In one scene, it's suggested that a male character is having a threesome with two women, though nothing is shown. The movie has a fair bit in common with the real-life 1978 Jonestown Massacre, and parents may want to educate older teens about this incident in relation to the movie.

What's the story?

Fashion photographer Patrick (Kentucker Audley) receives a mysterious letter from his sister (Amy Seimetz), who has struggled with alcoholism and gone to live in a religious retreat. Accompanied by radical reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg), Patrick travels to Eden Parish, where converts grow food, work together, and take care of one another under the kindly command of "Father" (Gene Jones). But just as things are starting to look decent, the crew receives a cry of help from a young girl: Many of the residents are there against their will. As a general uproar begins, Father decides to put into effect his deadly, last-ditch back-up plan. Can the intrepid journalists stop it?

Is it any good?

QUALITY

After writer/director Ti West's two great horror movies, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, his oddly conventional THE SACRAMENT is something of a letdown. It begins with the use of the old "found footage" device, which isn't just stale and inconsistent but also fails to make room for the beautiful, tense compositions that West employed in his earlier films. Secondly, the entire idea is simply borrowed from the real-life Jonestown Massacre of 1978, leaving little in the way of surprise.

Yet West is such an inventive, powerful filmmaker that he still manages to establish some interesting spaces, even with the clunky hand-held camerawork. The blocky cabins, the space between, a pavilion, and darkness, all come into play. Moreover, he gets a great performance from Jones as the avuncular yet slippery Father, giving an interview with sunglasses on and addressing many of his answers to his followers, rather than to his questioner. It's a moment that's so seductive it's genuinely spooky.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about The Sacrament's violence. How little/much is shown? What effect does it have? How did the filmmaker's choices affect your reaction?

  • What does the movie have in common with the real-life Jonestown Massacre of 1978? How could you find out more about that event?

  • Director Ti West is known for making horror movies. Is the movie scary? How is and isn't it a horror film? Where is the line drawn?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 6, 2014
DVD release date:August 19, 2014
Cast:Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen
Director:Ti West
Studios:Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing
Genre:Horror
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing violent content including bloody images, language and brief drug use

This review of The Sacrament was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Disquieting indie drama reveals the cost of cult life.
  • Intense, evocative drama examines faith, compulsion.
  • Spooky anthology horror film has lots of gore, sex, drugs.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?